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CARLETON UNIVERSITY / Religion / RELI 2732 / What are the characteristics of souls in indigenous traditions?

What are the characteristics of souls in indigenous traditions?

What are the characteristics of souls in indigenous traditions?


School: Carleton University
Department: Religion
Course: Death and Afterlife
Professor: Angela sumegi
Term: Spring 2017
Cost: 50
Name: Death and The Afterlife: Midterm Study Guide
Description: These notes are a condensed version of what has been talked about in the last 5 lectures and focuses on elements that are likely to be on the midterm.
Uploaded: 02/11/2017
16 Pages 115 Views 32 Unlocks


What are the characteristics of souls in indigenous traditions?

Dana Foley  

Death and The Afterlife

Professor: Angela Sumegi

Life and Death  

Near Death Experiences  

Psychological Explanation: experience is an emotional response to the shock of  death. Fantasy, myth fulfillment and mythological architypes are buried in the brain,  which make the person feel calm in the face of death.  We also discuss several other topics like Name one of edward bellamy's popular novels.

Biological Explanation:  

Metabolic Disturbance: imbalance in the body’s biochemical processes Drug overload: during surgery

Endorphins: tranquilizing substances released by the brain

Limbic Lobe Seizure: effects emotions, sensory, and memory  

What is the oldest monotheistic religion?

Visual Cortex Hyperactivity: explains feeling of seeing light at the end of the tunnel  Robert Vetch on Death  

[irreversible and complete change in the status of a living thing]

1. Irreversible loss of the flow if vital fluids/functions  

2. Irreversible loss of the soul  

3. Loss of the capacity of the blood to regulate

4. Loss of capacity for social function  

Francis Crick and “The Astonishing Hypothesis”

[Everything that make us “us”-our ambitions, memories, joys, sorrows- is only  because of associated nerve cells and molecules.]

Taphephobia- The fear of being buried alive. Common practice in 16th century  Europe to have safety coffins.

Who were the sadducees?

Harvard Criteria for Irreversible Comma

“Unreceptivity and unresponsiveness, no movement or breathing, no reflexes, flat  electroencephalogram (no electrical activity in the brain).”  Don't forget about the age old question of What are the two strategies to support general form of the principle?

Physical Death- decay and annihilation of the physical body.  Metaphysical Death- the death of life or the mind itself. Ways of Understanding a Person  

1. Body and soul  

2. Body and mind  

3. Body and life-force  

4. Body and consciousness  

Primal Religions  

***about 200,000,000 of the world’s inhabitants  

Common World Views  

1. Duality of the Universe  

2. Duality of the Person  

3. The Social Function of Religion  

Shaman- specialist in tribal or indigenous religions who communicate with the  spirit world for the practical benefit of the community  Don't forget about the age old question of What is natural law?

Nonphysical Causes of Sickness and Death  

∙ Soul-loss  

∙ Spirit possession  

∙ Intrusion of a diseased spirit ∙ Spirit attack  

∙ Violation of taboos  

One treatment may be the healing of the  community. Sickness is thought to be a  marker of disunity in a community and a  sign that balance needs to be restored.

Don't forget about the age old question of What are the names of the trojans who will we meet today?

Other Characteristics of Indigenous Religions  ∙ Spiritualization of the world in human beings exist  


∙ Belief in the connections between visible and invisible worlds  ∙ Human beings are not separate from the natural world  

∙ Other worlds are accessible to humans  

∙ Religion serves society  

Characteristics of Souls in Indigenous Traditions  

∙ There may be many souls associated with a person  

∙ Souls are mobile and somewhat material  

∙ The soul is not necessarily eternal  

Guajiro Shaman Chant  

∙ We all have a soul  

∙ It looks like white cotton fluff or smoke

∙ No one can see it  

∙ The soul can leave us when we are asleep and sick  

∙ Everything that happens in our dreams happens to our soul  Don't forget about the age old question of What game of counting is?

The Yom Bay of Northern Zambia  

∙ The birth of a child is not the birth of a person  

∙ Baby become person through ritual  

∙ Infants that die before these rituals are disposed of without the social  recognition of a person  

∙ Birth and death are social construction-the womb is called a house and grave  is called a house  

Tibetan Religion  

∙ Cremate the bodies to return them back to the basic elements  ∙ Taken to flow down the river  

∙ Dissolve to become one ocean  

Rituals of departure – Dogon Clip

∙ Each death represents the death of the Dogon. The individual is defined by  the group, and the group identifies with the individual. The death of one  person is felt as the death of the entire community.

∙ Death causes a tear in the social fabric – the fabric of life. The entire  community needs to heal.

∙ The coldness of death makes life warm. Life is given meaning through,  contrast/comparison – relation – If you want to learn more check out How to limit the factors for plant growth?


∙ one does not become an ancestor just by dying. The ritual of the dance  transforms the spirit into an ancestor

∙ The Bush represents power; the unknown, the invisible realm - village  represents the known and the physical nature of existence – social order.

∙ The masked dancers become shamans in their capacity of bringing the power  of the bush into the village to heal the community from death

Warao Indians of Venezuela  

∙ Warao means Boat People  

∙ Wa means dugout canoe  

∙ Dead buried in a dugout canoe, which represents the womb of the forest god  ∙ Spirit world is divided into deities of world of light and world of darkness  ∙ Food for light spirits consists of flour, honey, and tobacco smoke  ∙ Light shaman deals with fertility and communications with the spirit of the  light  

∙ Dark shaman communicates with dark spirits  

∙ He had to feed the dark souls with people  

∙ If he does not nourish the spirits the world will come to an end  ∙ Heaven is only guaranteed to shaman and master craftsmen  

The Gurung People of Nepal  

∙ Death rituals are based on a myth about a girl from the underworld sent to  marry a man from the living world  

∙ Meant to symbolize the harmony of the dead and the living  

∙ Mother’s side of the family must produce a white shroud to wrap the body in  ∙ Meant to symbolize harmony between both sides of the family  ∙ The soul goes to the underworld after death  

∙ The soul is thought to reside in a pigeon, when it is released into the sky, the  soul has thought to have been released from the underworld  

∙ A shaman then guides the soul to the land of the ancestors  

Ancient Religion


Neanderthal Grave

∙ They put food and tools around the grave of the dead  

∙ Communicates the idea that they would need these things where they are  going  

∙ **Zagros Mountains, Iraq: Pollen samples found around all graves. The  practice of leaving flowers on a person’s grave is an ancient tradition  

Cro-Magnum Grave  

∙ More protective grave  

∙ Found with tools and food  

∙ Stone slabs  

Neolithic Grave  

∙ Bodies are laid under grave like tombs and boulders  

∙ Neolithic burials would have been around a time of agriculture and animal  domestication  

∙ Therefore, burials could be more elaborate with animal sacrifices and food  offerings  

The Shaman of Trois Freres- Cave painting from Dordogne, France.  Shaman performing ritual to ensure good hunt (animal headed man).  

Siberian Shaman

∙ Shaman marries the daughter of the animal spirits  

∙ He has a dominant over the female spirit  

∙ Therefore, the hunters have dominance over all animals  

∙ Shaman must go into the forest after death to be eaten by animals  The Ancient Empires  

∙ Envisioned a universe of order  

∙ It must rain in the rainy season and be sunny and sunny season  ∙ They have shaman to make sure this happens  


∙ 2000 identified deities  

∙ Between the Tigris and the Euphrates  Rivers  

∙ Beautiful and fertile land


Ishtar- Fertility Goddess  

Marduk- ruler of the gods  

Tiamat-Dragon, representing primal chaos

Mesopotamian View of the Person  

∙ Humans are created from a mixture of the blood of a sacrificed god and clay  ∙ Upon death, the person becomes bones and ghost  

∙ Life is where all pleasure and meaning comes from  

∙ The Ghost can be harmful if death rituals are not carried out properly ∙ The fate of everyone was to go to the underworld after death  

Gilgamesh- He was in search of immortality. On his journey, he stopped at an  inn, and the barmaid tells him that all joys come from life. [Eat, drink, and be merry,  while you still can.]


∙ Polytheistic religion  

∙ Two kingdoms in Lower and Upper Egypt  

∙ The Divine King: Ramses, son of Ra  

∙ Sun god: Horus- Pharaoh represents him  

∙ Scarab: The dung beetle- represents the rising sun  

∙ Anubis: Jackal-headed guide of the dead  

∙ Thoth: Ibis headed god of wisdom

Egyptian Views of Creation



 Shu (god of air), tries to keep Geb (earth god) and Nut (sky goddess) apart   Thoth plays checkers with the moon god, he can win them time to be together  He wins them 5 days out of the year to be together  

 360+5=365  

 Thus, developed the first lunar calendar  

 The 5 days are considered days out of time: Epagomenal

 Nut conceived and bore Osiris and Seth  

 Seth was jealous of Osiris, so he killed him and cut his body up into piece   His most fertile parts were thrown in the Nile, and from then on the land  

around the Nile was very fertile  

 Osiris became the god of the underworld  

4 Components of Egyptian Theories of the Person  

∙ Material: living body, the corpse, and the mummy  

∙ Immaterial:  

o Ka is a spirit double and needs a stature to reside in after death of the  body.  

o Ba is represented as a human headed bird which is thought to fly away after death and wander around during sleep. There is a passage and  exit hole in the tomb for it to escape from.  

∙ Name: unique personality of the person. To be remembered so that they may  live on.  

∙ Shadow or shade: looms around the tomb after death.  

Funeral Texts  

1. Pyramid Texts: Spells carved in the interior walls

2. Coffin Texts: emphasis on going to live with the sun and stars, usually on the  inside of the coffin lids  


3. Going out into the day: collected spells, available to be put in the coffin with  the deceased, they eventually came to be known as the book of the dead  


∙ Pyramids are only for royalty  

∙ Belief that the preserved bodies would find eternal life  

∙ Organs were put into glass jars (canopic jars)  

∙ The heart as left inside the body- they believed that all thinking was with the  ∙ The brain was thought to be useless and removed from the nose  ∙ The body was then packed and salt and wrapped in linen to be buried with all  of its belongings  

∙ There was also the ritual of the opening of the mouth, which was meant to  ensure that the person could eat and talk in the next world  

∙ Sinners would be cremated so to have no chance at life after death  ∙ They did not fear death because it was looked at as another chance at life,  they feared second death however, or death of the soul  

Life after death was the life of a busy, sexual, and intellectual human being. The  afterlife was not seen as a spiritual element at all. It was just an extension of life  and a return to a perfect self.  

The dead went to the Osirian fields where they would spend their time tending to  crops. Life is somewhat the same except for that there is no imperfections.  

You had to be tested by Osiris to get into heaven, so your soul would be taken to  the great judgement hall where it would be weighed against Maat’s feather (The  goddess of truth). If your heart was as light as the feather, you could go into the  fields, but if it was heavy, you would have been eaten by Amid, the crocodile  

headed god

3 Possible After Death Destinations  

∙ Among the stars  

∙ With the sun god Ra

∙ In the kingdom of Osiris  


Jewish Religion  


∙ Oldest monotheistic religion  

∙ Genesis: the early history of the Jews, Christians and Muslims  ∙ God chose Abraham to be an example to all other human beings  ∙ Judaism is founded on the Abrahamic covenant  

∙ Circumcision is the outward mark of the covenant  

∙ Canaan is the land promised to the Jews in the covenant

∙ Exodus, or the movement of the people, is a metaphor for liberation and  freedom of oppression  

∙ Moses received the 10 commandments on Mount Sanai  

∙ The tribes of Israel were later united under Saul, David, and Solomon ∙ Jesus was from the house of David  

∙ When solo man died, the kingdoms were split into Israel and Judea  ∙ In 722 BC Israel was conquered by the Assyrians  

∙ They became the lost tribes of Israel  

∙ Southern Judea was conquered by the Babylonians  

∙ Antiochus: Syrian- Greek ruler who desecrated Jewish temples and outlawed  Jewish religion  

∙ Hanukah: commemorates the Maccabean revolts and retaking of the temple  of Jerusalem  


∙ In the Jewish religion, the death of the individual does not matter, if the  community still goes on, the covenant can continue  

∙ In this sense, the death of the community (genocide) would be a catastrophe  which would endanger the relationship of God and all people  

Creation Story  

∙ Genesis 2:7  

∙ Person is not equal to body and soul  

∙ The person is body and animated breath of God  


∙ Upon death, the breath goes back to god, and your spirit goes to the land of  the dead, Sheol (place of gloom)  

∙ A place no return and no relationship with God  

∙ They only possible fate for people is death  

∙ There are 3 levels of existence:  

∙ Upper- for the sky gods  

∙ Middle- for the humans  

∙ Bottom- for the Ancestors  

∙ Jews broke away from these beliefs and started to worship one god in the sky  Burial Rituals  

∙ The dead are not embalmed or preserved  

∙ The body is always covered  

∙ Body is washed and placed in white shrouds

∙ They are not buried in coffins, but wrapped in white shrouds and placed on a  board to be buried in the dirt  

∙ They are buried as soon as possible  

∙ There is also the ritual of Tahara

∙ It is meant to provide comfort for the soul and care for  the body  

∙ Workers never pass anything over the body as a sign of  respect  

∙ There are 3 stages: the cleaning, the purification, the  dressing


∙ Mourners tear their clothes to show grief  

∙ Shiva: means 7 (for the 7 days of mourning after the funeral and 7 day  burning candles)  

∙ All the mirrors in the house are covered and mourners sit on low stools and  chairs  

∙ Mourner’s Kadesh: a prayer that the mourners recite to show that even in  despair they hold faith in God  

Apocalyptic Eschatology  

∙ Eschatology = The study of end times  

∙ Belief that there will be a great apocalypse at the end of time when God’s  justice will be revealed


∙ All the dead will be raised to face god’s judgement and all souls will be  assigned to an eternity in heaven or hell  

∙ “The good will inherit the Earth.”  

Jewish View on Death and the Afterlife  

∙ Leaves a lot of room for one’s own personal beliefs  

∙ Primarily concentrated on earthly life  

∙ Life on earth is up to us and what happens after death is God’s business  ∙ Belief in the immortal soul, resurrection and god’s judgement  

Jewish Mysticism and the Kabalistic Creation  

∙ Jewish mysticism is preserved in those who follow the way of the Kabala  ∙ Mostly Hasidic Jews  

∙ Based on the 12th century “Book of Illumination” and teachings of Rabbi Isaac  Luria  

∙ Accepts the idea of the resurrection of the soul, called Gilgul  

∙ Mystic union with God is called D’kekut- clinging to god

Christian Religion

∙ Hebrew bible accepted by Christians as the Old Testament  

∙ teachings regarded as the new testament  

∙ Jesus is regarded as the son of god, sent into the world by god, and also one with god  

∙ Trinity- represents 3 different ways of understanding God’s action and  nature  

∙ The Father, the Son, and the Holy Spirt

∙ 3 ways in which one god relates to humanity  

∙ Baptism in the form of emersion in water was Jewish ritual of purification ∙ Baptism then became new ritual of being accepted into religion  ∙ John the Baptist preached that the apocalyptic time was near  ∙ Most of Jesus’ ministry took place among the fisher folk  

∙ From them he acquired close disciples  

∙ Jesus was considered a rebel preacher within his own religion  ∙ He criticized their narrow interpretations  

∙ Jesus did not reject Jewish law, he simply looked at the deeper meaning of  being righteous  

∙ Roman law eventually caught up with him  

∙ He was sentenced to crucifixion  

∙ Signifies the sacrifice Jesus made to redeem humankind for hell  ∙ Placed his body in a tomb, tomb was later found empty  


∙ He came in living form to his disciples, and ascended to heaven  ∙ Thought to come again someday

∙ accepted as the messiah

Jewish Groups in the time of Jesus  

∙ The Sadducees: wealthy priest aristocrats-rejected the belief of resection  ∙ The Pharisees-competed with the Sadducees for control of temple rituals established a system of  

∙ The Zealots- advocated rebellion against the Romans- waited for the Messiah  who should lead an army to overthrow the Romans  

∙ Essenes-separated themselves from society and lived in small communities in the dessert-very simple, austere, celibate life-believed themselves the only  one truly faithful to god  


∙ By sinning humans brought death upon themselves  

∙ Adam’s sin separated him, and all those who descended from him, from God  ∙ Jesus is sometimes called the second Adam or the last Adam  ∙ Both are the first, the beginning of humanity  

∙ Eternal life and reunion with god were now available, but only if you choose to accept this new beginning  

∙ Your first birth is into the first Adam’s line (sin and death), baptism brings you  into the line of Jesus  

∙ The Last Enemy: death  


∙ Transformation: according to the new testament, resurrection of the body is transformation of person from a mortal being to an immortal being  

Jesus and The End Times  

∙ Movement of hope captured in apocalyptic eschatology

∙ Jesus’ resurrection was understood as the opening act in the apocalyptic  scenario. Apocalyptic end time would come with Jesus’ second coming.  

∙ They expected the second coming of Jesus in their own lifetime.

∙ After 100 years Christians had to rethink their logic. All kinds of other  questions came up.  

∙ Death and afterlife came separate from the apocalyptic end of the world.  Ideas of the immortal soul became more important.

What happens to the soul between death and resurrection?  

∙ Different ideas  

∙ Soul is sleeping  

∙ Having punishment or reward immediately  

Concepts of Heaven and Hell  

∙ Christians say “eternal life” instead of “immortality”  

∙ Eternal life means life in communion with God  

∙ For modern theologians (Heinz Kuhn) Heaven is not some place above the  starts with angels playing harps, it to have found her and now, in a spiritual  life found in God’s grace  

∙ Hell, is not a physical place, it is not any other world, for such theologians,  Hell means exclusion from god, and the complete loss of meaning from one’s  life  

∙ The news testament images are not to be taken literally, but understood as  the urgency as how we must act to save ourselves from separation from God  ∙ Idea of Heaven seems very attractive in modern Christian life, but Hell has  been a little phased out  

∙ For protestant theologians, faith is not just faith in salvations, it is faith AS salvation. Faith itself is a gift from God. If there is faith, then that is a sign of  eternal life  



∙ An idea of an intermediate state between heaven and Hell

∙ Theological development- not good enough to go to heaven, not bad enough  to go to Hell  

∙ Middle ages it is looked at as a demi-Hell, souls suffer to pay for their sins and be purified so they can go to heaven  

∙ Indulgences could be sold to get loved ones out of purgatory and into  heaven sooner  

Religious Text Excerpts  

From Africa “The Two Messengers”

God sent the Chameleon to the first ancestors with the message that they would be  immortal, and the Lizard with the message that they would die. But the slow  chameleon paused along the way and the quick Lizard arrived first with her message of Death.

From Indonesia “The Stone and the Banana”

In the beginning the sky was very near to the earth, and the Creator used to let  down his gifts to humankind at the end of a rope. One day he lowered down a stone.  But the Ancestors rejected it and called out to their Maker “What have we to do with  this stone? Give us something else”. And so, sometime later the Creator sent down a banana, which they joyfully accepted. Then the Ancestors heard a voice from heaven saying “Because you have chosen the banana, your life shall be like its life. When  the banana tree has offspring, the parent stem dies; so shall you die and your  children shall step into your place. Had you chosen the stone, your life would have  been like the life of the stone, changeless and immortal”.

From the Epic of Gilgamesh, a description of the underworld: 14

On the road where travelling is one way only, To the house where those who stay  are deprived of light, where dust is their food, and clay their bread. They are clothed, like birds, with feathers, and they see no light, and they dwell in darkness.

The Epic of Gilgamesh- Advice from a barmaid  

Gilgamesh, where do you roam? You will not find the eternal life you seek. When the  gods created mankind, they appointed death for mankind, Kept eternal life in their  own hands. So, Gilgamesh, let your stomach be full, Day and night enjoy yourself in  every way, every day arrange for pleasures. Day and night, dance and play, Wear  fresh clothes. Keep your head washed, bathe in water, Appreciate the child who  holds your hand, let your wife enjoy herself in your lap. This is the work of the living.  

Incarnations from Egyptians Funerary Texts  

You come to life a second time ... You thrive on water, you breathe air, you drink as  your heart desires. Your eyes are given you to see, your ears to hear what is spoken;  Your mouth speaks, your feet walk, your hands, your arms have motion. Your flesh is  firm, your muscles are smooth, you delight in all your limbs; You count your  members: all there, sound, there is no fault in what is yours. Let my mouth be to me  that I may speak therewith. Let my legs be to me that I may walk therewith. Let my  arms be to me that I may overthrow the foe therewith . . . I know how to use my  heart . . . I am master of my hands and arms. I am master of my legs. I have the  power to do that which my Ka desires to do.

Example of a Pyramid Text  

Oho! Oho! Rise, O Teti! Take your head, collect your bones, Gather your limbs, shake the earth from your flesh! Take your bread that rots not, your beer that sours not,  Stand at the gates that bar the common people! The gatekeeper comes out to you,  he grasps your hand, Takes you into heaven, to your father Geb. He rejoices at your  coming, gives you his hands, Kisses you, caresses you, Sets you before the spirits,  the imperishable stars...

Example of a Coffin Text  

I shall sail rightly in my bark, I am lord of eternity in the crossing of the sky. I am not  afraid in my limbs . . . I shall see light-land, I shall dwell in it . . .As for any person  


who knows this spell, he will be like Re in the eastern sky, like Osiris in the  netherworld. He will go down to the circle of fire, without the flame touching him  ever!

The Shema  

You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart, and with all your soul, and with  all your might. Keep these words that I am commanding you today in your heart.  Recite them to your children and talk about them when you are at home and when  you are away, when you lie down and when you rise. Bind them as a sign on your  hand, fix them as an emblem on your forehead, and write them on the doorposts of  your house and on your gates.

Abrahamic Covenant  

Now the Lord said to Abram, “Go from your country and your kindred and your  father’s house to the land that I will show you. And I will make of you a great nation,  and I will bless you and make your name great, so that you will be a blessing. I will  bless those who bless you, and the one who curses you I will curse; and in you all the families of the earth shall be blessed.”


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