Religious and nonreligious terms, labels, or definitions have been used and may still be used as or related to all kinds of bigotry from religious bigotry, ethnocentrism, classism, colonialism, racism, sexism, etc.

Religious Intolerance/Bigotry

Religious intolerance is intolerance of another’s religious beliefs, practices, or lack thereof. Statements which are contrary to one’s religious beliefs do not constitute intolerance. Religious intolerance, rather, occurs when a person or group (e.g., a society, a religious group, a non-religious group) specifically refuses to tolerate the religious convictions and practices of a religious group or individual.” ref

“Monotheistic religion is the oldest and most encompassing framework for bigotry in the West. Its Manichean binaries of good and evil, pure and impure, superior and inferior, us and them have been leveraged over centuries to justify bigotry. That ideology of stark division and uncompromising difference has survived in spite of the powerful prophetic traditions of those same Abrahamic religions urging social justice, compassion, and peace. Bigotry has been installed in religious institutions in the West for millennia, but at the same time, those institutions have authorized power to undermine bigotry.” ref

“They have contributed crucially to the fashioning of counter-ideologies aimed at liberation from narrow views of human subjectivity and social life that engendered suffering. The problem of religious bigotry then, is a complex one, tied to spatial and temporal contexts, and frequently admitting a measure of ambiguity. In other words, it is like bigotry in some other areas of American life, including race, gender, sexuality, and disability, but it differs from those because of its exceptional
deep-rootedness in institutions. In addition to interreligious bigotry, there also are examples of intrareligious bigotry among various denominations, sects, and branches of religions.” ref

“The appearance of permanence and impeccable authority cultivated by religious institutions, and the leveraging of those seeming assets in violent litigations of factional differences, has served in turn as a template for other kinds of structural bigotry. Structural bigotry denotes a broad range of acts and policies of social injustice/domination typically grounded in transgenerational claims of entitlement; legitimated by institutions, ideologies, policies, media, and custom; and driven by expressions of animus, including shared symbolism and hateful vocabulary, verbal and physical assaults including hate crimes, and exclusion which serves to entrench power in privileged insiders, in which all members of a society can be implicated subjects/beneficiaries.” ref

“Religious bigotry, like all structural bigotry, is exercised in order to hold power. Groups perceived as competitors for the resources claimed by religion are assessed as impure, dangerous, and an imminent threat to the very existence of the religious community. Religious intolerance is perhaps the earliest example of structural bigotry. Many early societies were
configured around religious identity and religious group membership. Religious identity or lack thereof provided a ready proxy for exclusion, discrimination, persecution, oppression, and violence. Religious intolerance remains a strong driver of structural bigotry in the modern United States. Targets of religious intolerance are often those who practice or are perceived to practice faiths other than mainstream Christianity and those who are secular or otherwise reject religious practice or affiliation.” ref

“Inflammatory religious rhetoric and the violence marshaled to its cause have been present throughout national histories, including the earliest colonial settlements of North America. The American history of religious intolerance as a record of violence between religious groups is replete with generations of conflict among every religious group, large and small. Protestants of all stripes, Catholics, Jews, Muslims, Hindus, Buddhists, Mormons, Jehovah’s Witness, Quakers, Shakers, Amish, indigenous religions, Afro-Caribbean religions – all of these and more have experienced religious intolerance and
many have perpetrated it.” ref

Animism (from Latinanima meaning ‘breathspiritlife‘) is the belief that objects, places, and creatures all possess a distinct spiritual essence. Animism perceives all things—animalsplantsrocksriversweather systems, human handiwork, and in some cases words—as animated and alive. Animism is used in anthropology of religion as a term for the belief system of many Indigenous peoples, in contrast to the relatively more recent development of organized religions. Animism focuses on the metaphysical universe, with a specific focus on the concept of the immaterial soul.” ref

“Although each culture has its own mythologies and rituals, animism is said to describe the most common, foundational thread of indigenous peoples’ “spiritual” or “supernatural” perspectives. The animistic perspective is so widely held and inherent to most indigenous peoples that they often do not even have a word in their languages that corresponds to “animism” (or even “religion”). The term “animism” is an anthropological construct.” ref

“Largely due to such ethnolinguistic and cultural discrepancies, opinions differ on whether animism refers to an ancestral mode of experience common to indigenous peoples around the world or to a full-fledged religion in its own right. The currently accepted definition of animism was only developed in the late 19th century (1871) by Edward Tylor. It is “one of anthropology‘s earliest concepts, if not the first.” ref

“Animism encompasses beliefs that all material phenomena have agency, that there exists no categorical distinction between the spiritual and physical world, and that soul, spirit, or sentience exists not only in humans but also in other animals, plants, rocks, geographic features (such as mountains and rivers), and other entities of the natural environment. Examples include water spritesvegetation deities, and tree spirits, among others. Animism may further attribute a life force to abstract concepts such as words, true names, or metaphors in mythology. Some members of the non-tribal world also consider themselves animists, such as author Daniel Quinn, sculptor Lawson Oyekan, and many contemporary Pagans.” ref

Alice Beck Kehoe (Anthropologist and Archaeologist) stated:

“Animism” is not a religion, it’s a 19th-century label, as is “Totemism”, these labels are armchair gentlemens’ labels for what they read in travelers’ books. You should get a copy of the new book, paperback available, Pilgrimage to Broken Mountain, by Alan and Pamela Sandstrom.  An amazing magnum opus from decades of superb ethnography by a family (parents, both Ph.D.s, and their son) who spent a great deal of time with a Nahua community in NE Mexico mountains, going on five pilgrimages with them to holy mountains.  On page 4, left-hand column near bottom, the Sandstroms explain why “animism” is a bad label, and instead say “ontological monism”.  “Damien, listen carefully:  all 3 words as used in the past AND STILL TODAY, are LABELS imposed by armchair gentlemen creating a newer (19th century) version of the Great Chain of Being.  See The Great Chain of Being — Arthur O. Lovejoy. Harvard University › catalog “In this volume, which embodies the William James lectures for 1933”. . . ” – Alice Beck Kehoe, From an email message

“Also, of course, Lovejoy and G. Boas (NOT Franz, no relation), on Primitivism. The classically educated gentlemen were following the Enlightenment practice of IMPOSING classificatory labels on everything, to put everything inside classificatory boxes that would construct research paradigms and ultimately lead to universal laws about all organisms including humans. The labels were created to put the Primitives into classificatory structures, which demarcated them from Us the Civilized Christians. Yes, they have no sexist connotations now, nor did they originally. They are, however, blatantly RACIST in that they separate non-Western peoples from (White) Christians. Thus, you should not use these labels. As for the term shamanism, we don’t have data for its earlier form or forms other than maybe the wu of early Chinese writing (c 2000 years ago). Shamanic religions are a historical cultural tradition in Asia, that spread from the ferment of religious revelations and movements around 2000 years ago (Hinduism becoming written down, Buddhism in opposition to it, Chinese educated class interested in these). Animism and totemism are purely academic impositions of Western imperialist culture. Look at it this way:  would you lump the cuisines of India along with the work of the Sioux Chef in one category because both are Indians? And put that category opposed to fine French cuisine, with the common implication that the French cuisine is Civilized but the other two not because their nations were conquered by the Europeans who ate French cuisine?” – Alice Beck Kehoe, From an email message

My response, I appreciate Alice Beck Kehoe’s thoughts and think it important to explain and expose past bigotry, sexism, racism, homophobia, transphobia, etc. I think I will, in the future, do a blog and video addressing bigotry in terms used in religious explanations past and present as this is also an important subject. This blog post is part of this. I also need to restate to people that I am a revolutionary who uses prehistory and history as a path to greater intellectualism and enlightenment. I am not making my blogs for archaeologists or anthropologists, but for the general public, to inform and inspire new learning and a desire to learn more thus becoming more culturally aware. Words that are now descriptive of religious thinking and behavior are not the same as racist or sexist words with clear racist or sexist meanings.

RESEARCH ARTICLE ANTHROPOLOGY: A 12,000-year-old Shaman burial from the southern Levant    (Israel)
Abstract: The Natufians of the southern Levant (15,000–11,500 cal BP) underwent pronounced socioeconomic changes associated with the onset of sedentism and the shift from a foraging to a farming lifestyle. Excavations at the 12,000-year-old Natufian cave site, Hilazon Tachtit (Israel), have revealed a grave that provides a rare opportunity to investigate the ideological shifts that must have accompanied these socioeconomic changes. The grave was constructed and specifically arranged for a petite, elderly, and disabled woman, who was accompanied by exceptional grave offerings. The grave goods comprised 50 complete tortoise shells and select body-parts of a wild boar, an eagle, a cow, a leopard, and two martens, as well as a complete human foot. The interment rituals and the method used to construct and seal the grave suggest that this is the burial of a shaman, one of the earliest known from the archaeological record. Several attributes of this burial later become central in the spiritual arena of human cultures worldwide.” ref

The Shaman’s Secrets from Archaeology Magazine, a Publication of the Archaeological Institute of America

“9,000 years ago, two people were buried in Germany with hundreds of ritual objects—who were they? An impressive selection of grave goods including roe deer antlers that could have been worn as a headdress and boars’ teeth and tusks  with holes drilled in them enabling them to be suspended from an animal skin were found in a 9,000-year-old shaman’s burial. A skeleton placed as if seated in a shallow pit, along with the approximate location and outlines of the original ditch. Among the finds that emerged from the grave that afternoon was a second, tiny skull belonging to an infant of less than a year old, found between the thighs of the adult burial. Other unusual items included the delicate antlers of a roe deer, still attached to part of the skull, that could have been worn as a headdress. The skeleton and, based on the shape of the pelvis and other bones, suggested that they belonged to a woman. The copious grave goods—in addition to the antler headdress, blades, mussel shells, and boar tusks there were hundreds of other artifacts, including boars’ teeth, turtle shells, and bird bones—clearly marked the burial as special. The flints and other finds were firmly rooted in the world of Mesolithic hunter-gatherers who lived between 12,000 and 6,000 years ago, rather than the more agrarian Neolithic farmers in the following period. That dating, too, deepened the mystery. The few Mesolithic graves that had been unearthed in Europe contained a flint blade or two, at most. In comparison, the Bad Dürrenberg grave was uniquely rich for the period. The boars’ teeth and concluded that they had been drilled through so they could be attached to an animal skin, which, in combination with the antler headdress, led to suggestions that the grave belonged to a shaman. A few years later, the skeleton was put on display in the museum’s permanent exhibition, identified as a female shaman from the Mesolithic period.” ref 

I post these articles on shaman burials to show not all anthropologists or archaeologists disagree with me. The 12,000-year-old Shaman’s burial is from an anthropology-related article and the other is an archaeology-related article on a 9,000-year-old shaman’s burial.


Hunter-Gatherers and the Origins of Religion (2016)

“The universality of religion across human society points to a deep evolutionary past.”

“Recent studies of the evolution of religion have revealed the cognitive underpinnings of belief in supernatural agents, the role of ritual in promoting cooperation, and the contribution of morally punishing high gods to the growth and stabilization of human society. The universality of religion across human society points to a deep evolutionary past. However, specific traits of nascent religiosity, and the sequence in which they emerged, have remained unknown. Here we reconstruct the evolution of religious beliefs and behaviors in early modern humans using a global sample of hunter-gatherers and seven traits describing hunter-gatherer religiosity: animism, belief in an afterlife, shamanism, ancestor worship, high gods, and worship of ancestors or high gods who are active in human affairs. We reconstruct ancestral character states using a time-calibrated supertree based on published phylogenetic trees and linguistic classification and then test for correlated evolution between the characters and for the direction of cultural change. Results indicate that the oldest trait of religion, present in the most recent common ancestor of present-day hunter-gatherers, was animism, in agreement with long-standing beliefs about the fundamental role of this trait. Belief in an afterlife emerged, followed by shamanism and ancestor worship. Ancestor spirits or high gods who are active in human affairs were absent in early humans, suggesting a deep history for the egalitarian nature of hunter-gatherer societies. There is a significant positive relationship between most characters investigated, but the trait high gods” stands apart, suggesting that belief in a single creator deity can emerge in a society regardless of other aspects of its religion.”

“Old animism” definitions?

“Earlier anthropological perspectives, which have since been termed the old animism, were concerned with knowledge on what is alive and what factors make something alive. The old animism assumed that animists were individuals who were unable to understand the difference between persons and things. Critics of the old animism have accused it of preserving “colonialist and dualistic worldviews and rhetoric.” ref

“The idea of animism was developed by anthropologist Sir Edward Tylor through his 1871 book Primitive Culture, in which he defined it as “the general doctrine of souls and other spiritual beings in general.” According to Tylor, animism often includes “an idea of pervading life and will in nature;” a belief that natural objects other than humans have souls. This formulation was little different from that proposed by Auguste Comte as “fetishism“, but the terms now have distinct meanings.” ref

“For Tylor, animism represented the earliest form of religion, being situated within an evolutionary framework of religion that has developed in stages and which will ultimately lead to humanity rejecting religion altogether in favor of scientific rationality. Thus, for Tylor, animism was fundamentally seen as a mistake, a basic error from which all religions grew. He did not believe that animism was inherently illogical, but he suggested that it arose from early humans’ dreams and visions and thus was a rational system. However, it was based on erroneous, unscientific observations about the nature of reality.” ref 

“Stringer notes that his reading of Primitive Culture led him to believe that Tylor was far more sympathetic in regard to “primitive” populations than many of his contemporaries and that Tylor expressed no belief that there was any difference between the intellectual capabilities of “savage” people and Westerners. The idea that there had once been “one universal form of primitive religion” (whether labelled animismtotemism, or shamanism) has been dismissed as “unsophisticated” and “erroneous” by archaeologist Timothy Insoll, who stated that “it removes complexity, a precondition of religion now, in all its variants.” ref 

“Tylor’s definition of animism was part of a growing international debate on the nature of “primitive society” by lawyers, theologians, and philologists. The debate defined the field of research of a new science: anthropology. By the end of the 19th century, an orthodoxy on “primitive society” had emerged, but few anthropologists still would accept that definition. The “19th-century armchair anthropologists” argued, that “primitive society” (an evolutionary category) was ordered by kinship and divided into exogamous descent groups related by a series of marriage exchanges. Their religion was animism, the belief that natural species and objects had souls.” ref

“With the development of private property, the descent groups were displaced by the emergence of the territorial state. These rituals and beliefs eventually evolved over time into the vast array of “developed” religions. According to Tylor, as society became more scientifically advanced, fewer members of that society would believe in animism. However, any remnant ideologies of souls or spirits, to Tylor, represented “survivals” of the original animism of early humanity.” ref

“New animism” non-archaic definitions

“Many anthropologists ceased using the term animism, deeming it to be too close to early anthropological theory and religious polemic. However, the term had also been claimed by religious groups—namely, Indigenous communities and nature worshippers—who felt that it aptly described their own beliefs, and who in some cases actively identified as “animists”. It was thus readopted by various scholars, who began using the term in a different way, placing the focus on knowing how to behave toward other beings, some of whom are not human. As religious studies scholar Graham Harvey stated, while the “old animist” definition had been problematic, the term animism was nevertheless “of considerable value as a critical, academic term for a style of religious and cultural relating to the world.” ref

‘‘Animism’’ Revisited (Current Anthropology Volume 40, Supplement, February 1999)

‘‘Animism’’ is projected in the literature as simple religion and a failed epistemology, to a large extent because it has hitherto been viewed from modernist perspectives. Previous theories, from classical to recent, are critiqued. An ethnographic example of a hunter-gatherer people is given to explore how animistic ideas operate within the context of social practices, with attention to local constructions of a relational personhood and to its relationship with ecological perceptions of the environment. A reformulation of their animism as a relational epistemology is offered. The concept of animism, which E. B. Tylor developed in his 1871 masterwork Primitive Culture, is one of anthropology’s earliest concepts, if not the first. The intellectual genealogy of central debates in the field goes back to it. Anthropology textbooks continue to introduce it as a basic notion, for example, as ‘‘the belief that inside ordinary visible, tangible bodies there is normally invisible, normally intangible being: the soul . . . each culture [having] its own distinctive animistic beings and its own specific elaboration of the soul concept’’ (Harris 1983:186).” ref

“Encyclopedias of anthropology commonly present it, for instance, as ‘‘religious beliefs involving the attribution of life or divinity to such natural phenomena as trees, thunder, or celestial bodies’’ (Hunter and Whitten 1976:12). The notion is widely employed within the general language of ethnology (e.g., Sahlins 1972:166, 180; Gudeman 1986:44; Descola 1996:88) and has become important in other academic disciplines as well, especially in studies of religion (as belief in spirit-beings) and in developmental psychology referring to children’s tendency to consider things as living and conscious). Moreover, the word has become a part of the general English vocabulary and is used in everyday conversations and in the popular media. It appears in many dictionaries, including such elementary ones as the compact school and office edition of Webster’s New World Dictionary (1989), which defines it as ‘‘the belief that all life is produced by a spiritual force or that all natural phenomena have souls.’’ It is found in mainstream compendia such as the Dictionary of the Social Sciences (Gould and Kolb 1965), which sums it up as ‘‘the belief in the existence of a separable soul-entity, potentially distinct and apart from any concrete embodiment in a living individual or material organism.” ref

“The term is presented in dictionaries of the occult: the Encyclopedia of Ghosts and Spirits (Guilei 1992), for example, defines it as ‘‘the system of beliefs about souls and spirits typically found in tribal societies,’’ and the Dictionary of Mysticism and the Occult (Drury 1985) defines it as ‘‘the belief, common among many pre-literate societies, that trees, mountains, rivers and other natural formations possess an animating power or spirit.’’ Amazingly, the century-old Tylorian concept appears in all these diverse sources (popular and academic, general and specific) revised little if at all. Animism, a 19th-century representation of an ethnographically researchable practice particularly conspicuous among indigenous peoples but by no means limited to them, is depicted by them all as an ‘‘object’’ in-the-world. The survival of the Tylorian representation is enigmatic because the logic underlying it is today questionable. Tylor was not as rigid a positivist as he is often made out to be (see Ingold 1986:94–96; Leopold 1980). However, he developed this representation within a positivistic spiritual/materialist dichotomy of 19th-century design in direct opposition to materialist science, in the belief and as part of an effort to prove this belief) that only science yielded ‘‘true’’ knowledge of the world. Furthermore, the moral implications of this representation are unacceptable now. Tylor posited that ‘‘animists’’ understood the world childishly and erroneously, and under the influence of 19th-century evolutionism he read into this cognitive underdevelopment.” ref

“Yet the concept still pervasively persists. Equally surprisingly, the ethnographic referent—the researchable cultural practices which Tylor denoted by the signifier/signified of ‘‘animism’’—has remained a puzzle despite the great interest which the subject has attracted. Ethnographers continue to cast fresh ethnographic material far richer than Tylor had (or could have imagined possible) into one or more of the Tylorian categories ‘‘religion,’’ ‘‘spirits,’’ and ‘‘supernatural beings’’ (e.g., Endicott 1979, Howell 1984, Morris 1981, Bird-David 1990, Gardner 1991, Feit 1994, Povinelli 1993, Riches 1994). At the same time, they have commonly avoided the issue of animism and even the term itself rather than revisit this prevalent notion in light of their new and rich ethnographies. A twofold vicious cycle has ensued. The more the term is used in its old Tylorian sense, without benefit of critical revision, the more Tylor’s historically situated perspective is taken as ‘‘real,’’ as the phenomenon which it only glosses, and as a ‘‘symbol that stands for itself’’ (Wagner 1981). In turn, anthropology’s success in universalizing the use of the term itself reinforces derogatory images of indigenous people whose rehabilitation from them is one of its popular roles.” ref

“As a hypothesis, furthermore, I am willing to agree with Tylor, not least because Guthrie goes some way towards substantiating the point, that the tendency to animate things is shared by humans. However, this common tendency, I suggest, is engendered by human socially biased cognitive skills, not by ‘‘survival’’ of mental confusion (Tylor) or by wrong perceptual guesses (Guthrie). Recent work relates the evolution of human cognition to social interaction with fellow humans. Its underlying argument is that interpersonal dealings, requiring strategic planning and anticipation of action-response-reaction, are more demanding and challenging than problems of physical survival (Humphrey 1976). Cognitive skills have accordingly evolved within and for a social kind of engagement and are ‘‘socially biased’’ (Goody 1995). We spontaneously employ these skills in situations when we cannot control or totally predict our interlocutor’s behavior, when its behavior is not predetermined but in ‘‘conversation’’ with our own.” ref

“We employ these skills in these situations, irrespective of whether they involve humans or other beings (the respective classification of which is sometimes part of reflective knowing, following rather than preceding the engagement situation). We do not first personify other entities and then socialize with them but personify them as, when, and because we socialize with them. Recognizing a ‘‘conversation’’ with a counter-being—which amounts to accepting it into fellowship rather than recognizing a common essence—makes that being a self in relation with ourselves. Finally, the common human disposition to frame things relationally in these situations is culturally mediated and contextualized in historically specific ways not least in relation with cultural concepts of the person). A diversity of animisms exists, each animistic project with its local status, history, and structure (in Sahlins’s [1985] sense).” ref

“There follow intriguing questions deserving study, for example: How does hunter-gatherer animism compare with the current radical environmental discourses (e.g., Kovel 1988, Leahy 1991, Regan 1983, Tester 1991) that some scholars have described as the ‘‘new animism’’ (Bouissac 1989; see also Kennedy’s ‘‘new anthropomorphism’’ [1992])? What other forms of animism are there? How do they articulate in each case with other cosmologies and epistemologies? How do animistic projects relate to fetish practices? Surely, however, the most intriguing question is why and how the modernist project estranged itself from the tendency to animate things, if it is indeed universal. How and why did it stigmatize ‘‘animistic language’’ as a child’s practice, against massive evidence see Guthrie 1993) to the contrary?” ref

“How did it succeed in delegitimating animism as a valid means to knowledge, constantly fending off the impulse to deploy it and regarding it as an ‘‘incurable disease’’ (see Kennedy 1992 and Masson and McCarthy 1995)? The answers are bound to be complex. Ernest Gellner (1988) argued that nothing less than ‘‘a near-miraculous concatenation of circumstances’’ can explain the cognitive shift that occurred in Western Europe around the 17th century. Ironically, history has it that Descartes—a reclusive man—was once accidentally locked in a steam room, where under hallucination he had the dualist vision on which the modern project is founded (see Morris 1991: 6). Can it be that a Tylorian kind of ‘‘dream thesis’’ helps explain not the emergence of primitive animism but, to the contrary, the modernist break from it?” ref

Animism: Respecting the Living World by Graham Harvey 

 “How have human cultures engaged with and thought about animals, plants, rocks, clouds, and other elements in their natural surroundings? Do animals and other natural objects have a spirit or soul? What is their relationship to humans? In this new study, Graham Harvey explores current and past animistic beliefs and practices of Native Americans, Maori, Aboriginal Australians, and eco-pagans. He considers the varieties of animism found in these cultures as well as their shared desire to live respectfully within larger natural communities. Drawing on his extensive casework, Harvey also considers the linguistic, performative, ecological, and activist implications of these different animisms.” ref

My Thoughts on Animism

I use the Animism term as a definition of spirit-beliefs or a kind of Supernatural-Spiritism thinking, that to me, are in all spiritual or religious type beliefs, not primitive but core. I see Animism as the original religion (religious non-naturalism/supernatural persuasion or spiritual/magical thinking) of all humanity and is still in all the religions of the world.

I don’t see religious terms Animism, Totemism, Shamanism, or Paganism as primitive but original or core elements that are different parts of world views and their supernatural/non-natural beliefs or thinking.

In the past or even lingering today, are beliefs often ripe with religious bigotry, seen in how religious/spiritual thinking not Abrahamic (Judaism, Christianity, or Islam) religious thinking are often believed to be primitive, unequal, or less than monotheism (preserved as the only real or not the correct religious beliefs if not monotheism).

I see all religions as having shared or similar features or core elements that relate to religious terms Animism, Totemism, Shamanism, or Paganism including Abrahamic (Judaism, Christianity, or Islam) religious thinking. 

 I don’t class any religious thinking as primitive but in error to what I see as a natural-only world, that religious thinking then makes up a myriad of non-natural/non-empirical themes/beings, stories, and myths about which group together are called religions.

I don’t believe there is a one and only one shamanism expression, any more than there is only one paganism, or almost any other religious thinking perspective or worldview. There is no one Christianity nor one Islam, neither is there only one Buddhism or one type of Hinduism.

Do I as an atheist, think there may be any chance I would ever go back to religion or become religious of any type?

My response, No, I don’t see myself believing in non-reality beliefs supported by faith. I don’t value faith. Atheism is a lack of belief in gods, so it doesn’t mean one can’t have other beliefs even religious or spiritual (whatever this loose term spiritual means). I am an atheist, antitheist, and antireligionist. So, I don’t enjoy attending any religious services nor follow any religious-themed teaching but understand others who are atheists may. People should do as they feel works for them.


Atheism, in the broadest sense, is an absence of belief in the existence of deities. Less broadly, atheism is a rejection of the belief that any deities exist. In an even narrower sense, atheism is specifically the position that there are no deities. Atheism is contrasted with theism, which in its most general form is the belief that at least one deity exists. The first individuals to identify themselves as atheists lived in the 18th century during the Age of Enlightenment. The French Revolution, noted for its “unprecedented atheism”, witnessed the first significant political movement in history to advocate for the supremacy of human reason. In 1967, Albania declared itself the first official atheist country according to its policy of state Marxism.” ref

“Writers disagree on how best to define and classify atheism, contesting what supernatural entities are considered gods, whether atheism is a philosophical position in its own right or merely the absence of one, and whether it requires a conscious, explicit rejection. However, the norm is to define atheism in terms of an explicit stance against theism. Before the 18th century, the existence of God was so accepted in the Western world that even the possibility of true atheism was questioned. This is called theistic innatism—the notion that all people believe in God from birth; within this view was the connotation that atheists are in denial. There is also a position claiming that atheists are quick to believe in God in times of crisis, that atheists make deathbed conversions, or that “there are no atheists in foxholes.” ref 

“There have, however, been examples to the contrary, among them examples of literal “atheists in foxholes”. Some atheists have challenged the need for the term “atheism”. In his book Letter to a Christian NationSam Harris wrote:

In fact, “atheism” is a term that should not even exist. No one ever needs to identify himself as a “non-astrologer” or a “non-alchemist“. We do not have words for people who doubt that Elvis is still alive or that aliens have traversed the galaxy only to molest ranchers and their cattle. Atheism is nothing more than the noises reasonable people make in the presence of unjustified religious beliefs.” ref 

“In early ancient Greek, the adjective átheos (ἄθεος, from the privative ἀ- + θεός “god”) meant “godless”. It was first used as a term of censure roughly meaning “ungodly” or “impious”. In the 5th century BCE, the word began to indicate more deliberate and active godlessness in the sense of “severing relations with the gods” or “denying the gods”. The term ἀσεβής (asebēs) then came to be applied against those who impiously denied or disrespected the local gods, even if they believed in other gods. Modern translations of classical texts sometimes render átheos as “atheistic”. As an abstract noun, there was also ἀθεότης (atheotēs), “atheism”. Cicero transliterated the Greek word into the Latin átheos. The term found frequent use in the debate between early Christians and Hellenists, with each side attributing it, in the pejorative sense, to the other.” ref

“The term atheist (from the French athée), in the sense of “one who … denies the existence of God or gods”, predates atheism in English, being first found as early as 1566, and again in 1571. Atheist as a label of practical godlessness was used at least as early as 1577. The term atheism was derived from the French athéisme, and appears in English about 1587. An earlier work, from about 1534, used the term atheonismKaren Armstrong writes that “During the 16th and 17th centuries, the word ‘atheist’ was still reserved exclusively for polemic … The term ‘atheist’ was an insult. Nobody would have dreamed of calling himself an atheist.” Atheism was first used to describe a self-avowed belief in late 18th-century Europe, specifically denoting disbelief in the monotheistic Abrahamic god. In the 20th century, globalization contributed to the expansion of the term to refer to disbelief in all deities, though it remains common in Western society to describe atheism as “disbelief in God.” ref

Discrimination Against Atheists

Discrimination against atheists, sometimes called atheophobiaatheistophobia, or anti-atheism, both at present and historically, includes persecution of and discrimination against people who are identified as atheists. Discrimination against atheists may be manifested by negative attitudes, prejudice, hostility, hatred, fear, or intolerance towards atheists and atheism and is often based in distrust regardless of its manifestation. Perceived Atheist prevalence seems to be correlated with reduction in prejudice.” ref

“Because atheism can be defined in various ways, those discriminated against or persecuted on the grounds of being atheists might not have been considered atheists in a different time or place. Thirteen Muslim countries officially punish atheism or apostasy by death and Humanists International asserts that “the overwhelming majority” of the 193 member states of the United Nations “at best discriminate against citizens who have no belief in a god and at worst can jail them for offences dubbed blasphemy”. In some Muslim-majority countries, atheists face persecution and severe penalties such as the withdrawal of legal status or, in the case of apostasycapital punishment.” ref

Tim Whitmarsh argues atheism existed in the ancient world, though it remains difficult to assess its extent given that atheists are referenced (usually disparagingly) rather than having surviving writings. Given monotheism at the time was a minority view, atheism generally attacked polytheistic beliefs and associated practices in references found. The word “atheos” (godless) also was used for religious dissent generally (including the monotheists) which complicates study further. Despite these difficulties, Whitmarsh believes that otherwise atheism then was much the same. While atheists (or people perceived as such) were occasionally persecuted, this was rare (perhaps due to being a small group, plus a relative tolerance toward different religious views). Other scholars believe it arose later in the modern eraLucien Febvre has referred to the “unthinkability” of atheism in its strongest sense before the sixteenth century, because of the “deep religiosity” of that era. Karen Armstrong has concurred, writing “from birth and baptism to death and burial in the churchyard, religion dominated the life of every single man and woman.” ref  

“Every activity of the day, which was punctuated by church bells summoning the faithful to prayer, was saturated with religious beliefs and institutions: they dominated professional and public life—even the guilds and the universities were religious organizations. … Even if an exceptional man could have achieved the objectivity necessary to question the nature of religion and the existence of God, he would have found no support in either the philosophy or the science of his time.” As governmental authority rested on the notion of divine right, it was threatened by those who denied the existence of the local god. Those labeled as atheist, including early Christians and Muslims, were as a result targeted for legal persecution.” ref

“During the early modern period, the term “atheist” was used as an insult and applied to a broad range of people, including those who held opposing theological beliefs, as well as those who had committed suicide, immoral or self-indulgent people, and even opponents of the belief in witchcraft. Atheistic beliefs were seen as threatening to order and society by philosophers such as Thomas Aquinas. Lawyer and scholar Thomas More said that religious tolerance should be extended to all except those who did not believe in a deity or the immortality of the soul. John Locke, a founder of modern notions of religious liberty, argued that atheists (as well as Catholics and Muslims) should not be granted full citizenship rights.” ref

“During the Inquisition, several of those who were accused of atheism or blasphemy, or both, were tortured or executed. These included the priest Giulio Cesare Vanini who was strangled and burned in 1619 and the Polish nobleman Kazimierz Łyszczyński who was executed in Warsaw, as well as Etienne Dolet, a Frenchman executed in 1546. Though heralded as atheist martyrs during the nineteenth century, recent scholars hold that the beliefs espoused by Dolet and Vanini are not atheistic in modern terms. Baruch Spinoza was effectively excommunicated from the Sephardic Jewish community of Amsterdam for atheism, though he did not claim to be an atheist.” ref


“Confounding animism with totemism? In 1869 (three years after Tylor proposed his definition of animism), Edinburgh lawyer John Ferguson McLennan, argued that the animistic thinking evident in fetishism gave rise to a religion he named totemism. Primitive people believed, he argued, that they were descended from the same species as their totemic animal. Subsequent debate by the “armchair anthropologists” (including J. J. BachofenÉmile Durkheim, and Sigmund Freud) remained focused on totemism rather than animism, with few directly challenging Tylor’s definition. Anthropologists “have commonly avoided the issue of animism and even the term itself, rather than revisit this prevalent notion in light of their new and rich ethnographies.” ref

“According to anthropologist Tim Ingold, animism shares similarities with totemism but differs in its focus on individual spirit beings which help to perpetuate life, whereas totemism more typically holds that there is a primary source, such as the land itself or the ancestors, who provide the basis to life. Certain indigenous religious groups such as the Australian Aboriginals are more typically totemic in their worldview, whereas others like the Inuit are more typically animistic.” ref

“From his studies into child development, Jean Piaget suggested that children were born with an innate animist worldview in which they anthropomorphized inanimate objects and that it was only later that they grew out of this belief. Conversely, from her ethnographic research, Margaret Mead argued the opposite, believing that children were not born with an animist worldview but that they became acculturated to such beliefs as they were educated by their society.” ref  

“Stewart Guthrie saw animism—or “attribution” as he preferred it—as an evolutionary strategy to aid survival. He argued that both humans and other animal species view inanimate objects as potentially alive as a means of being constantly on guard against potential threats. His suggested explanation, however, did not deal with the question of why such a belief became central to the religion. In 2000, Guthrie suggested that the “most widespread” concept of animism was that it was the “attribution of spirits to natural phenomena such as stones and trees.” ref 

“Totemism, system of belief in which humans are said to have kinship or a mystical relationship with a spirit-being, such as an animal or plant. The entity, or totem, is thought to interact with a given kin group or an individual and to serve as their emblem or symbol. The term totemism has been used to characterize a cluster of traits in the religion and in the social organization of many peoples. Totemism is manifested in various forms and types in different contexts and is most often found among populations whose traditional economies relied on hunting and gathering, mixed farming with hunting and gathering, or emphasized the raising of cattle. Totemism is a complex of varied ideas and ways of behavior based on a worldview drawn from nature. There are ideological, mystical, emotional, reverential, and genealogical relationships of social groups or specific persons with animals or natural objects, the so-called totems.” ref

“The term totem is derived from the Ojibwa word ototeman, meaning “one’s brother-sister kin.” The grammatical root, ote, signifies a blood relationship between brothers and sisters who have the same mother and who may not marry each other. In English, the word totem was introduced in 1791 by a British merchant and translator who gave it a false meaning in the belief that it designated the guardian spirit of an individual, who appeared in the form of an animal—an idea that the Ojibwa clans did indeed portray by their wearing of animal skins. It was reported at the end of the 18th century that the Ojibwa named their clans after those animals that live in the area in which they live and appear to be either friendly or fearful. The first accurate report about totemism in North America was written by a Methodist missionary, Peter Jones, himself an Ojibwa, who died in 1856 and whose report was published posthumously. According to Jones, the Great Spirit had given toodaims (“totems”) to the Ojibwa clans, and because of this act, it should never be forgotten that members of the group are related to one another and on this account may not marry among themselves.” ref  

“A totem (from Ojibweᑑᑌᒼ or ᑑᑌᒻ doodem) is a spirit being, sacred object, or symbol that serves as an emblem of a group of people, such as a familyclanlineage, or tribe, such as in the Anishinaabe clan system. While the word totem itself is an anglicisation of the Ojibwe term (and both the word and beliefs associated with it are part of the Ojibwe language and culture), belief in tutelary spirits and deities is not limited to the Ojibwe people.” ref   

“Similar concepts, under differing names and with variations in beliefs and practices, may be found in a number of cultures worldwide. The term has also been adopted, and at times redefined, by anthropologists and philosophers of different cultures. Contemporary neoshamanicNew Age, and mythopoetic men’s movements not otherwise involved in the practice of a traditional, tribal religion have been known to use “totem” terminology for the personal identification with a tutelary spirit or spirit guide. However, this can be seen as cultural misappropriation.” ref 

“The totem poles of the Pacific Northwestern Indigenous peoples of North America are carved, monumental poles featuring many different designs (bears, birds, frogs, people, and various supernatural beings and aquatic creatures). They serve multiple purposes in the communities that make them. Similar to other forms of heraldry, they may function as crests of families or chiefs, recount stories owned by those families or chiefs, or commemorate special occasions. These stories are known to be read from the bottom of the pole to the top.” ref 

“The spiritual, mutual relationships between Aboriginal AustraliansTorres Strait Islanders, and the natural world are often described as totems. Many Indigenous groups object to using the imported Ojibwe term “totem” to describe a pre-existing and independent practice, although others use the term. The term “token” has replaced “totem” in some areas. In some cases, such as the Yuin of coastal New South Wales, a person may have multiple totems of different types (personal, family or clan, gender, tribal and ceremonial). The lakinyeri or clans of the Ngarrindjeri were each associated with one or two plant or animal totems, called ngaitji. Totems are sometimes attached to moiety relations (such as in the case of Wangarr relationships for the Yolngu). Torres Strait Islanders have auguds, typically translated as totems. An augud could be a kai augud (“chief totem”) or mugina augud (“little totem”).” ref 

“Early anthropologists sometimes attributed Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander totemism to ignorance about procreation, with the entrance of an ancestral spirit individual (the “totem”) into the woman believed to be the cause of pregnancy (rather than insemination). James George Frazer in Totemism and Exogamy wrote that Aboriginal people “have no idea of procreation as being directly associated with sexual intercourse, and firmly believe that children can be born without this taking place”. Frazer’s thesis has been criticised by other anthropologists, including Alfred Radcliffe-Brown in Nature in 1938.” ref

“Early anthropologists and ethnologists like James George Frazer, Alfred Cort HaddonJohn Ferguson McLennan and W. H. R. Rivers identified totemism as a shared practice across indigenous groups in unconnected parts of the world, typically reflecting a stage of human development. Scottish ethnologist John Ferguson McLennan, following the vogue of 19th-century research, addressed totemism in a broad perspective in his study The Worship of Animals and Plants (1869, 1870). McLennan did not seek to explain the specific origin of the totemistic phenomenon but sought to indicate that all of the human race had, in ancient times, gone through a totemistic stage.” ref 

“Another Scottish scholar, Andrew Lang, early in the 20th century, advocated a nominalistic explanation of totemism, namely, that local groups or clans, in selecting a totemistic name from the realm of nature, were reacting to a need to be differentiated. If the origin of the name was forgotten, Lang argued, there followed a mystical relationship between the object—from which the name was once derived—and the groups that bore these names. Through nature myths, animals and natural objects were considered as the relatives, patrons, or ancestors of the respective social units. British anthropologist Sir James George Frazer published Totemism and Exogamy in 1910, a four-volume work based largely on his research among Indigenous Australians and Melanesians, along with a compilation of the work of other writers in the field.” ref 

“By 1910, the idea of totemism as having common properties across cultures was being challenged, with Russian American ethnologist Alexander Goldenweiser subjecting totemistic phenomena to sharp criticism. Goldenweiser compared Indigenous Australians and First Nations in British Columbia to show that the supposedly shared qualities of totemism—exogamy, naming, descent from the totem, taboo, ceremony, reincarnation, guardian spirits and secret societies and art—were actually expressed very differently between Australia and British Columbia, and between different peoples in Australia and between different peoples in British Columbia. He then expands his analysis to other groups to show that they share some of the customs associated with totemism, without having totems. He concludes by offering two general definitions of totemism, one of which is: “Totemism is the tendency of definite social units to become associated with objects and symbols of emotional value.” ref 

“The founder of a French school of sociology, Émile Durkheim, examined totemism from a sociological and theological point of view, attempting to discover a pure religion in very ancient forms and claimed to see the origin of religion in totemism. In addition, he argued that totemism also served as a form of collective worship, reinforcing social cohesion and solidarity. The leading representative of British social anthropology, A. R. Radcliffe-Brown, took a totally different view of totemism. Like Franz Boas, he was skeptical that totemism could be described in any unified way. In this, he opposed the other pioneer of social anthropology in England, Bronisław Malinowski, who wanted to confirm the unity of totemism in some way and approached the matter more from a biological and psychological point of view than from an ethnological one.” ref 

“According to Malinowski, totemism was not a cultural phenomenon, but rather the result of trying to satisfy basic human needs within the natural world. As far as Radcliffe-Brown was concerned, totemism was composed of elements that were taken from different areas and institutions, and what they have in common is a general tendency to characterize segments of the community through a connection with a portion of nature. In opposition to Durkheim’s theory of sacralization, Radcliffe-Brown took the point of view that nature is introduced into the social order rather than secondary to it. At first, he shared with Malinowski the opinion that an animal becomes totemistic when it is “good to eat.” He later came to oppose the usefulness of this viewpoint, since many totems—such as crocodiles and flies—are dangerous and unpleasant. In 1938, the structural functionalist anthropologist A. P. Elkin wrote The Australian Aborigines: How to understand them. His typologies of totemism included eight “forms” and six “functions.” ref  

“The forms identified totemism were:

  • individual (a personal totem),
  • sex (one totem for each gender),
  • moiety(the “tribe” consists of two groups, each with a totem),
  • section (the “tribe” consists of four groups, each with a totem),
  • subsection (the “tribe” consists of eight groups, each with a totem),
  • clan (a group with common descent share a totem or totems),
  • local (people living or born in a particular area share a totem) and
  • “multiple” (people across groups share a totem).” ref

“The functions identified were:

  • social (totems regulate marriage, and often a person cannot eat the flesh of their totem),
  • cult (totems associated with a secret organization),
  • conception (multiple meanings),
  • dream (the person appears as this totem in others’ dreams),
  • classificatory (the totem sorts people) and
  • assistant (the totem assists a healer or clever person).” ref

“The terms in Elkin’s typologies see some use today, but Aboriginal customs are seen as more diverse than his typologies suggest. As a chief representative of modern structuralism, French ethnologist Claude Lévi-Strauss, and his Le Totémisme aujourd’hui (“Totemism Today” [1958]) are often cited in the field. In the 21st century, Australian anthropologists question the extent to which “totemism” can be generalized even across different Aboriginal Australian peoples, let alone to other cultures like the Ojibwe from whom the term was originally derived. Rose, James, and Watson write that: The term ‘totem’ has proved to be a blunt instrument. Far more subtlety is required, and again, there is regional variation on this issue.” ref

“Instances of the naming of clans for natural species among North American peoples were known long before the practice came to be called totemism. By the time the origin, significance, and definition of totemism became a major topic of controversy among theorists of tribal religion, the area of ethnographic exemplification had shifted from the Americas to central Australia. This shift was in part a consequence of the splendid ethnography of Baldwin Spencer and Francis James Gillen, but it also coincided with the widespread adoption of the evolutionist notion of the “psychic unity of mankind.” According to this idea, human culture was essentially unitary and universal, having arisen everywhere through the same stages, so that if we could identify a people who were “frozen” into an earlier stage, we would observe modes of thought and action that were directly ancestral to our own. Australia, a continent populated originally by hunting and gathering peoples alone, seemed to furnish examples of the most primitive stages available.” ref

“Together with the concept of taboo, and perhaps also that of mana, totemism became, for the later cultural evolutionists, the emblem (or perhaps the “totem”) of primitive thought or religion—its hallmark, and therefore also the key to its suspected irrationality. The origin and significance of totemism became the subject of widespread theoretical speculation during the first two decades of the twentieth century. Much of the early theorization developed along the lines of E. B. Tylor’s conception of the evolution of the soul (for example, totemic species as representations or repositories of the soul), or as literalizations of names (as in Herbert Spencer‘s hypothesis that totems arose from an aberration in nicknaming).” ref

“The controversy over totemism reached its peak after the publication of Frazer’s Totemism and Exogamy (1910). In that work, Frazer distinguished totemism, as implying a relationship of equality or kinship with the totem, from religion, as a relationship with higher powers. He emphasized the solidarity function of totemism, which knits people into social groups, as a contribution to the “cause of civilization.” Frazer’s speculation concerning the origin of totemism, however, came more and more to reflect the particulars of his Australian exemplars. From an initial theory identifying the totem as a repository for a soul entrusted to it for safekeeping, Frazer turned to an explanation based on the Intichiuma rites of central desert Aborigines, in which each subgroup is responsible for the ritual replenishment of some (economically significant) natural species. The idea of the economic basis of totemism was later revived, in simplified form, by Bronislaw Malinowski. Finally, Frazer developed the “conception theory” of totemism, on the model of the Aranda people of central Australia, according to which a personal totem is identified for a child by its mother on the basis of experiences or encounters at the moment she becomes aware that she is pregnant. A creature or feature of the land thus “signified” becomes the child’s totem.” ref

“In 1910, Goldenweiser, who had studied under Boas, published “Totemism: An Analytical Study,” an essay that became the definitive critique of “evolutionary” totemism. Goldenweiser called into question the unitary nature of the phenomenon, pointing out that there was no necessary connection between the existence of clans, the use of totemic designations for them, and the ideology of a relationship between human beings and totemic beings. Each of these phenomena, he argued, could in many cases be shown to exist independently of the others, so that totemism appeared less an institution or religion than an adventitious combination of simpler and more widespread usages.” ref

“Despite the acuity and ultimate persuasiveness of Goldenweiser’s arguments, the more creative “evolutionary” theories appeared in the years after the publication of his critique. Like Frazer’s theory, Durkheim’s conception of totemism is exemplified primarily through Australian ethnography. Durkheim viewed totemism as dominated by what he called a quasi-divine principle (Durkheim, 1915, p. 235), one that turned out to be none other than the representation of the social group or clan itself, presented to the collective imagination in the symbolic form of the creature that serves as the totem. Totemism, then, was a special case of the argument of Elementary Forms of the Religious Life, a work stating that religion is the form in which society takes account of (reveres, worships, fears) its own collective force.” ref

Sigmund Freud included the concept of totemism, as an exemplar (like the notion of taboo) of contemporary ideas of primitive thought, in his psychodynamic reassessment of cultural and religious forms. Freud’s Totem and Taboo (1918) projected human culture as the creative result of a primal oedipal guilt. The totem was selected and revered as a substitute for the murdered father, and totemic exogamy functioned as an expiatory resignation on the part of the sons of claims to the women freed by the murder of the father.” ref

“In the last major theoretical treatment of “evolutionary” totemism, Arnold van Gennep argued, against Goldenweiser, that its status as a particular combination of three elements did not disqualify totemism’s integrity as a phenomenon. Yet Gennep rejected the views of Durkheim and other social determinists to the effect that totemic categorization was based on social interests. Anticipating Lévi-Strauss, who based his later views on this position (Lévi-Strauss, 1966, p. 162), Gennep saw totemism as a special case of the more general cultural phenomenon of classification, although he did not pursue the implications of this position to the degree that Lévi-Strauss did.” ref

“Claude Lévi-Strauss’s modern critique effectively concludes the attack on evolutionary totemism begun by Goldenweiser, although it aims at the term totemism itself. In Totemism (1963), Lévi-Strauss critically reviews the history of the subject and reaches the conclusion that totemism is the illusory construct of an earlier period in anthropological theory. Reviewing the more recent ethnographic findings of writers like Meyer Fortes and Raymond Firth, he arrives at the proposition that it is the differences alone, among a series of totemic creatures, that serve to distinguish the corresponding human social units. He disavows, in other words, any sort of analogic relationship (of substance, origin, identity, or interest) between a totem and its human counterpart, and he thus reduces totemism to a special case of denomination or designation. This leaves unexplained (or reduces to mere detail) perhaps the bulk of the ethnographic material to totemism, concerned as it is with special ties and relationships between totem and human unit. In order to deal with this question, Lévi-Strauss developed, in The Savage Mind (1966), his notion of the “science of the concrete,” in which totemic “classifications” are but a special instance of a more widespread tradition of qualitative logic. Thus Lévi-Strauss is able to substitute the systematic tendencies of an abstract classifying schema for the specific relations between a totem and its social counterpart.” ref

“What is the place of totemism in the life of an ongoing community? Consider the Walbiri, an Aboriginal people of the central Australian desert. Walbiri men are divided into about forty lines of paternal descent, each associated with a totemic lodge devoted to the lore and ritual communication with an ancestral Dreaming totem (kangaroo, wallaby, rain, etc.). When they enact the Dreaming rituals, the men are believed to enter the “noumenal” phase of existence (Meggitt, 1972, p. 72) and to merge with the totemic ancestors themselves. Here the analogies between human beings and totemic creatures are sacramentally transformed into identities, made ritually into real relationships of mutual origin and creation, so that men of the different lodges actually belong to different totemic species. When the ritual is concluded, however, they return to everyday “phenomenal” existence and reassume their human character, so that the totemic designations revert to mere names, linked to respective moieties, linked subsections, and other constituents of the complex Walbiri social structure.” ref

“Thus the “noumenal phase” of Walbiri life, the ritual state, is constituted by the analogies drawn between human beings and their totems, whereas in the “phenomenal phase” these analogies collapse into arbitrary labels. Only in the latter phase does Lévi-Strauss’s proposition about the “differences alone” being the basis for coding human groups apply, for, as human beings, the members of these subsections and moieties can marry one another’s sisters and daughters, something that different species cannot do. Within the same culture, in other words, totemic distinctions can serve either as “labels,” to code the differences or distinctions among human groups, or, by expanding into metaphoric analogues, accomplish the religious differentiation of men into different “species.” ref

“The totemic symbolization of social units is, in many cultures, integrated into a larger or more comprehensive categorial or cosmological scheme, so that the totemic creatures themselves may be organized into broader categories. Among the Ojibwa of North America, totems are grouped according to habitat (earth, air, or water). Aboriginal Australia is distinctive in carrying this tendency to the extreme of “totem affiliation,” in which all the phenomena of experience, including colors, human implements, traits, weather conditions, as well as plants and animals, are assigned and grouped as totems (Brandenstein, 1982, p. 87). These universalized systems, in turn, are generally organized in terms of an overarching duality of principles. Brandenstein identifies three of these—quick/slow, warm/cold, and round/flat (large/small)—as generating, in their various permutations and combinations, the totemic-classificatory systems of aboriginal Australia (ibid., pp. 148–149). A similarly comprehensive system is found among the Zuni of the American Southwest, for whom totemic clans are grouped in respective association with seven directional orientations (the four directions, plus zenith, nadir, and center), which are also linked to corresponding colors, social functions, and, in some cases, seasons.” ref

“At the other extreme is individuating, or particularizing totemism, for the individual is also a social unit. Among the Sauk and Osage of North America, traits, qualities, or attributes of a clan totem will be assigned to clan members, as personal names, so that members of the Black Bear clan will be known for its tracks, its eyes, the female of the species, and so on (Lévi-Strauss, 1966, p. 173). Among the Kujamaat Diola of Senegal, on the other hand, individuals are totemized secretly through relationships with personalized animal doubles, which are produced by defecation from their own bodies, and which live in the bush near their dwellings (Sapir, 1977). Among the Usen Barok of New Ireland, individual names are taken from plant or animal manifestations of the essentially formless masalai, or tutelary clan spirit. Wherever personal names are conceived of as a relation between the bearer of the name and some phenomenal entity, we can consider naming itself to be a form of individual totemism.” ref

“Totemic individuation of this sort, in which the character of the name itself bears a specific relational significance, occurs frequently in the naming of modern sports teams, and in formal or informal national symbols, such as the eagle or the bear. Totemism has been proposed as the antecedent of the syncretistic religion of ancient Egypt, with possible indirect connections to the Greco-Roman pantheon. Predynastic Egypt was subdivided into a large number of local territorial units called nomes, each identified through the worship of a particular theriomorphic deity. As the unification of Egypt involved the political joining of these nomes, so the evolution of Egyptian religion led to the combining of the totemic creatures into compound deities such as Amun-Re (“ram-sun”), or Re-Harakhte (“sun-hawk”). There are possible archaic connections of these theriomorphic deities, with Homeric Greek divinities: for example, the cow Hathor with the “ox-eyed Hera.” Alternatively, of course, these divinities may have acquired such characterizations as the heritage of an indigenous totemism.” ref

“Totemism may not be the key to “primitive thought” that Frazer, Durkheim, and Freud imagined it to be, but the use of concrete phenomenal images as a means of differentiation is not easily explained away as merely another mode of designation, or naming. Wherever social units of any kind—individuals, groups, clans, families, corporations, sports teams, or military units—are arrayed on an equal footing and in “symmetrical” opposition to one another, the possibility arises of transforming a mere quantitative diversity into qualitative meaning through the use of concrete imagery. Diversity is then not merely encoded but instead enters the dimension of meaning, of identity as a concrete, positive quality.” ref

“Whenever we speak of a sports team as the Braves, Indians, Cubs, or Vikings, or speak of the Roman, American, German, or Polish eagle, or consider Raven, Eagle, and Killer Whale clans, we make the differences among the respective units something more than differences, and we give each unit a center and a significance of its own. Whenever this occurs, the possibility arises of developing this significance, to a greater or lesser degree, into a profound relationship of rapport, communion, power, or mythic origin. Viewed in this light, the “totems” of a social entity become markers and carriers of its identity and meaning; to harm or consume the totem may well, under certain cultural circumstances, become a powerful metaphor for the denial of qualitative meaning. When theorists of totemism sought to explain the phenomenon solely in terms of the food quest, marriage restrictions, coding, or classification, they subverted the force of cultural meaning to considerations that would find an easier credibility in a materialistically and pragmatically oriented society, “consuming,” as it were, meaning through its markers and carriers.” ref

“The ostensibly “primitive” character of totemism is an illusion, based on a tendency of literate traditions to overvalue abstraction and to reduce the rich and varied spectrum of meaning to the barest requirements of information coding. In fact abstract reference and concrete image are inextricably interrelated; they imply each other, and neither can exist without the other. Certainly, peoples whose social organizations lack hierarchy and organic diversity (e.g., social class or the division of labor) tend to develop and dramatize a qualitative differentiation through the imagery of natural species, whereas those whose social units show an organic diversity need not resort to a symbolic differentiation. The choice, however, is not a matter of primitiveness or sophistication but rather of the complementarity between social form and one of two equally sophisticated, and mutually interdependent, symbolic alternatives.” ref

Can Totemism Save The World?

“The totemic religion is a blend of diverse concepts and ways of conduct established on a  viewpoint that originates from the environment and is associated with a fundamental doctrine based on totemsTotems are a form of representation of the bonds humans have with the environment, including with animals, plants and natural inanimate objects. According to DW, totems serve as the symbol of a family, group or tribe that has ancestral connections. Monuments that portray totem animals  can be seen throughout different cultures around the globe. Totemism is not only common across North America, but it is also seen in Africa and Oceania. Several groups around the world are linked with animals which are represented in various ways. Those that have a totem bestowed to them, being it personal or a group totem, connect emotionally and with profound respect with their totem.” ref 

“The symbolic meanings of the totems are usually accompanied by the taboo of killing, hurting or disturbing your totem in any way as they are believed to have special spiritual and cultural associations. To harm or disrupt your totem is heavily looked down upon. Groups believe they are born from such totems, which has led some conservationists to question whether totemism might be an effective tool for conservation. Since these taboos exist, totems are protected by individuals or groups, which increases species and environmental conservation. Conservationists intend to use these taboos and beliefs to additionally help create higher protection rates for endangered species and habitats. If groups could reinvent the taboo of killing or harming these animals, it can be a useful form of conservation, such as the Urhobos tribal communities in the Niger Delta  caring for the pythons. Species may be protected by community through traditional beliefs and taboos. Traditional belief systems may also play an important role in the conservation of natural resources.” ref

“Stephen Hopper is a professor at the University of Western Australia and a botanist who specializes in conservation biology. He believes totemism is a great environmental practice. For the last 10 years, Hopper has worked with elders of the Noongar aboriginal tribe in South Western Australia. He was bestowed totems by elders of the Noongar tribe while on a trip to the Outback, where he asked if “white blokes” could have them as well. Hopper’s totems include the black snake, pink eucalyptus tree, kangaroo puller plant, honeyeater birds, red-tailed black cockatoo and the honey possum. He has his fair share of totems, because as a botanist and conservationist, he is trying to protect as much of the flora and fauna as he can.” ref

“It became clearly apparent that western technological societies are struggling despite efforts,” says Hopper. He believes first nations have some cultural approaches that would be beneficial in terms of conservation. As stated by Hopper, Noongar people are deeply connected to the planet as most first nations are. Each of them are bestowed with an animal and plant totem at birth, and some additional totems can be acquired throughout life. When a person is bestowed with a totem, it is important to keep in mind that they become that organism, that organism becomes them, according to Hopper. “If your totem is in trouble, you are in trouble.” he says. “It’s on you to care for your totem, learn about it, and this is a lifelong commitment you make.” ref

“Sharing his own take on totemism, Hopper sees it to be a very simple cultural construct that shows a lot of promise for western societies to do a much better job at caring for land, plants and animals. Hopper firmly believes there are far too many species threatened on the planet for a single government, university or any organization to look out for them. However, he is confident that if every individual or organization, from small to large, decided to adopt just one animal and one plant from their local areas as a totem, the number of people caring for these threatened creatures would astronomically increase and give a much brighter prospect for their survival.” ref 

 “To create development in a sustainable manner means to accommodate present needs without affecting the resources and overall potential to meet needs in the future. According to a study in the Journal of Natural Sciences Research, biodiversity depletion is an ongoing problem around the world. Human activity is affecting the supplies of natural resources available on the planet. Environmental indigenous practices could promote environmental preservation. Advocating alternative indigenous methods of species conservation in the environment may be helpful. Indigenous peoples face environmental challenges with their ancient knowledge they have of the land.” ref

“To have indigenous peoples helping in conservation using their beliefs to benefit nature has shown positive results. The relationships between indigenous peoples and the environment is ingrained in the beliefs they hold. This connection started to be appreciated as the environmental concerns continue to rise. Scientists, such as Hopper, are trying to use the knowledge of indigenous peoples to help in conservation efforts. Indigenous cultural traditions contain key thoughts and processes that would help communities better care for diversity. A clear demand is upon humanity to do whatever it can to start developing sustainably, and a way to do so might be through appreciation of the indigenous cultural values that entail conservation.” ref

Totemism and Environmental Preservation among Nembe People in the South-South Zone, Nigeria

“Abstract (2014): This study explored environmental indigenous practices that could promote environmental preservation among the people of Nembe in Bayelsa State. In spite of much concerns of both local and international bodies in the quest to preserve species in the environment, their efforts have not been fully successful in achieving such goals. Yet, measures to control species extinctions prove to no avail. In the view of this, alternative indigenous methods of species conservation in the environment must be advocated. The descriptive design was adopted, while theoretical triangulation of functionalism, symbolic interactionism and biocentrism were used as theoretical frameworks of analysis. 382 respondents participated in the study using the instruments of questionnaire as well as 5 key informants’ interviewees (KII). Stratified random sample was employed for the selection of respondents as well as purposive sampling for the selection of key informants interviewees (KII) across the five communities (namely, Ogolomabiri, Basanbiri, Odeama, Okpoama and Brass) that constitutes the people of Nembe. Simple percentages and pie chart descriptive statistical tools were used for the analysis of the data collected for the study. Findings showed that totemism as an indigenous practice promotes species conservation which include python, eagle, shark, zimbaerema and snails with minimal threats or risks to the social environment. In the view of the findings of the study, policy instruments were provided in order to facilitate the design of environmental policies such as the establishment of zoos and game reserves, public enlightenment campaigns to encourage indigenous environmental practices across board as well as embarking on research in other indigenous practices that will promote environmental preservation and species conservatism.” ref 

“In the mid 18th century Lindenau noted the Khorolors focused their religious devotion on the Raven, who was alternatively referred to as “Our ancestor”, “Our deity”, and “Our grandfather” by the Khorolors.” ref

“This article is based on new research which was undertaken by a Polish– Yakut team in the Sakha (Yakutia) Republic between 2001 and 2003. Accepting that shamanism is an archaic cultural practice of the Sakha people, and that it is also present in the wider territory of Siberia, it is assumed that some common topics of Siberian shamanism can provide a semantic context for elucidating the social or semantic meanings of rock art in the territory of the Sakha Republic. After a general characterization of rock art in Yakutia, the paper analyzes the possible shamanic overtones of some rock images from southern parts of the country, mainly along the middle Lena River basin, and in the northern territory, on the cliffs of the Olenek River. Attention is also paid to the contemporary veneration of sites with rock art, where ritual offerings are still practiced.” ref

I am an atheist, antitheist, and antireligionist. However, I am also a self-taught prehistorian, trying to explain the evolution of religion which requires me fully understand the connections of religious or spiritual beliefs to allow others to rethink the belief in them. To expose the evolution of religion and thus understand its humanness not just from reason but do to understanding all the facts of archaeology, anthropology, and religious mythology. It is to bring about awareness to inspire others to atheism or at least a new understanding of religion removing its believed special status when religion or spiritual beliefs are, to me, just “culture” or “sociocultural products, like language. I don’t believe in gods or ghosts, and nor souls either. I don’t believe in heavens or hells, nor any supernatural anything. I don’t believe in Aliens, Bigfoot, nor Atlantis. I strive to follow reason and be a rationalist. Reason is my only master and may we all master reason.

Sociocultural factors characterize social and cultural forces that influence the feelings, attitudes, values, thoughts, beliefs, interactions, and behaviors of related individuals and groups.” ref

Examples of sociocultural factors include:

  • Income and wealth distribution
  • Social classes
  • Attitudes towards education and work,
  • Language, customs, and taboos
  • Business and health practices
  • Housing
  • Religious beliefs
  • Population size and housing
  • Social mobility
  • Age distribution and social values” ref


shamanismreligious phenomenon centred on the shaman, a person believed to achieve various powers through trance or ecstatic religious experience. Although shamans’ repertoires vary from one culture to the next, they are typically thought to have the ability to heal the sick, to communicate with the otherworld, and often to escort the souls of the dead to that otherworld. The term shamanism comes from the Manchu-Tungus word šaman. The noun is formed from the verb ša- ‘to know’; thus, a shaman is literally “one who knows.” The shamans recorded in historical ethnographies have included women, men, and transgender individuals of every age from middle childhood onward.” ref

“As its etymology implies, the term applies in the strictest sense only to the religious systems and phenomena of the peoples of northern Asia and the Ural-Altaic, such as the Khanty and MansiSamoyedTungusYukaghirChukchi, and Koryak. However, shamanism is also used more generally to describe indigenous groups in which roles such as healer, religious leader, counselor, and councillor are combined. In this sense, shamans are particularly common among other Arctic peoplesAmerican IndiansAustralian Aborigines, and those African groups, such as the San, that retained their traditional cultures well into the 20th century. It is generally agreed that shamanism originated among hunting-and-gathering cultures, and that it persisted within some herding and farming societies after the origins of agriculture.” ref

“It is often found in conjunction with animism, a belief system in which the world is home to a plethora of spirit-beings that may help or hinder human endeavors. Opinions differ as to whether the term shamanism may be applied to all religious systems in which a central personage is believed to have direct intercourse with the transcendent world that permits him to act as healer, diviner, and the like. Since such interaction is generally reached through an ecstatic or trance state, and because these are psychosomatic phenomena that may be brought about at any time by persons with the ability to do so, the essence of shamanism lies not in the general phenomenon but in specific notions, actions, and objects connected with trance (see also hallucination).” ref

Journeys to the Sun: Heavenly Symbols in Shamanism and Rock Art of Siberia and Central Asia (for more info):

Shamanism or Samanism is a religious practice that involves a practitioner (shaman or saman) interacting with the spirit world through altered states of consciousness, such as trance. The goal of this is usually to direct spirits or spiritual energies into the physical world for the purpose of healing, divination, or to aid human beings in some other way. Beliefs and practices categorized as “shamanic” have attracted the interest of scholars from a variety of disciplines, including anthropologists, archeologists, historians, religious studies scholars, philosophers and psychologists. Hundreds of books and academic papers on the subject have been produced, with a peer-reviewed academic journal being devoted to the study of shamanism.” ref 

“In the 20th century, non-Indigenous Westerners involved in countercultural movements, such as hippies and the New Age created modern magicoreligious practices influenced by their ideas of various Indigenous religions, creating what has been termed neoshamanism or the neoshamanic movement. It has affected the development of many neopagan practices, as well as faced a backlash and accusations of cultural appropriation, exploitation, and misrepresentation when outside observers have tried to practice the ceremonies of, or represent, centuries-old cultures to which they do not belong.” ref 

“The Modern English word shamanism derives from the Russian word šamán, which itself comes from the word samān from a Tungusic language – possibly from the southwestern dialect of the Evenki spoken by the Sym Evenki peoples, or from the Manchu language. The etymology of the word is sometimes connected to the Tungus root sā-, meaning “To Know“. However, Finnish ethnolinguist Juha Janhunen questions this connection on linguistic grounds: “The possibility cannot be completely rejected, but neither should it be accepted without reservation since the assumed derivational relationship is phonologically irregular (note especially the vowel quantities).” ref

Mircea Eliade noted that the Sanskrit word śramaṇa, designating a wandering monastic or holy figure, has spread to many Central Asian languages along with Buddhism and could be the ultimate origin of the word shaman. The term was adopted by Russians interacting with the Indigenous peoples in Siberia. It is found in the memoirs of the exiled Russian churchman Avvakum. It was brought to Western Europe twenty years later by the Dutch traveler Nicolaes Witsen, who reported his stay and journeys among the Tungusic- and Samoyedic-speaking Indigenous peoples of Siberia in his book Noord en Oost Tataryen (1692). Adam Brand, a merchant from Lübeck, published in 1698 his account of a Russian embassy to China; a translation of his book, published the same year, introduced the word shaman to English speakers.” ref 

“Anthropologist and archeologist Silvia Tomaskova argued that by the mid-1600s, many Europeans applied the Arabic term shaitan (meaning “devil”) to the non-Christian practices and beliefs of Indigenous peoples beyond the Ural Mountains. She suggests that shaman may have entered the various Tungus dialects as a corruption of this term, and then been told to Christian missionaries, explorers, soldiers and colonial administrators with whom the people had increasing contact for centuries. Shamanism is a system of religious practice. Historically, it is often associated with Indigenous and tribal societies, and involves belief that shamans, with a connection to the otherworld, have the power to heal the sick, communicate with spirits, and escort souls of the dead to the afterlife. The origins of Shamanism stem from indigenous peoples of far northern Europe and Siberia.” ref

“Despite structural implications of colonialism and imperialism that have limited the ability of Indigenous peoples to practice traditional spiritualities, many communities are undergoing resurgence through self-determination and the reclamation of dynamic traditions. Other groups have been able to avoid some of these structural impediments by virtue of their isolation, such as the nomadic Tuvan (with an estimated population of 3000 people surviving from this tribe). Tuva is one of the most isolated Asiatic tribes in Russia where the art of shamanism has been preserved until today due to its isolated existence, allowing it to be free from the influences of other major religions.” ref 

“A female shaman is sometimes called a shamanka, which is not an actual Tungus term but simply shaman plus the Russian suffix -ka (for feminine nouns). There is no single agreed-upon definition for the word “shamanism” among anthropologists. Thomas Downson suggests three shared elements of shamanism: practitioners consistently alter consciousness, the community regards altering consciousness as an important ritual practice, and the knowledge about the practice is controlled.” ref

“The English historian Ronald Hutton noted that by the dawn of the 21st century, there were four separate definitions of the term which appeared to be in use:

  • The first of these uses the term to refer to “anybody who contacts a spirit world while in an altered state of consciousness”.
  • The second definition limits the term to refer to those who contact a spirit world while in an altered state of consciousness at the behest of others.
  • The third definition attempts to distinguish shamans from other magicoreligious specialists who are believed to contact spirits, such as “mediums“, “witch doctors“, “spiritual healers” or “prophets,” by claiming that shamans undertake some particular technique not used by the others. (Problematically, scholars advocating the third view have failed to agree on what the defining technique should be.)
  • The fourth definition identified by Hutton uses “shamanism” to refer to the Indigenous religionsof Siberia and neighboring parts of Asia. According to the Golomt Center for Shamanic Studies, a Mongolian organization of shamans, the Evenk word shaman would more accurately be translated as “priest.” ref 

 “According to the Oxford English Dictionary, a shaman (/ˈʃɑːmən/ SHAH-men/ˈʃæmən/ or /ˈʃeɪmən/) is someone who is regarded as having access to, and influence in, the world of benevolent and malevolent spirits, who typically enters into a trance state during a ritual, and practices divination and healing. The word “shaman” probably originates from the Tungusic Evenki language of North Asia. According to Juha Janhunen, “the word is attested in all of the Tungusic idioms” such as NegidalLamutUdehe/OrochiNanai, Ilcha, OrokManchu and Ulcha, and “nothing seems to contradict the assumption that the meaning ‘shaman’ also derives from Proto-Tungusic” and may have roots that extend back in time at least two millennia. The term was introduced to the west after Russian forces conquered the shamanistic Khanate of Kazan in 1552.” ref  

“The term “shamanism” was first applied by Western anthropologists as outside observers of the ancient religion of the Turks and Mongols, as well as those of the neighbouring Tungusic- and Samoyedic-speaking peoples. Upon observing more religious traditions around the world, some Western anthropologists began to also use the term in a very broad sense. The term was used to describe unrelated magicoreligious practices found within the ethnic religions of other parts of Asia, Africa, Australasia and even completely unrelated parts of the Americas, as they believed these practices to be similar to one another. While the term has been incorrectly applied by cultural outsiders to many Indigenous spiritual practices, the words “shaman” and “shamanism” do not accurately describe the variety and complexity that is Indigenous spirituality. Each nation and tribe has its own way of life, and uses terms in their own languages.” ref 

Mircea Eliade writes, “A first definition of this complex phenomenon, and perhaps the least hazardous, will be: shamanism = ‘technique of religious ecstasy‘.” Shamanism encompasses the premise that shamans are intermediaries or messengers between the human world and the spirit worlds. Shamans are said to treat ailments and illnesses by mending the soul. Alleviating traumas affecting the soul or spirit are believed to restore the physical body of the individual to balance and wholeness. Shamans also claim to enter supernatural realms or dimensions to obtain solutions to problems afflicting the community. Shamans claim to visit other worlds or dimensions to bring guidance to misguided souls and to ameliorate illnesses of the human soul caused by foreign elements. Shamans operate primarily within the spiritual world, which, they believe, in turn affects the human world. The restoration of balance is said to result in the elimination of the ailment.” ref  

Criticism of the term Totemism? The anthropologist Alice Kehoe criticizes the term “shaman” in her book Shamans and Religion: An Anthropological Exploration in Critical Thinking. Part of this criticism involves the notion of cultural appropriation. This includes criticism of New Age and modern Western forms of shamanism, which, according to Kehoe, misrepresent or dilute Indigenous practices. Kehoe also believes that the term reinforces racist ideas such as the noble savage. Kehoe is highly critical of Mircea Eliade‘s work on shamanism as an invention synthesized from various sources unsupported by more direct research. To Kehoe, citing that ritualistic practices (most notably drumming, trance, chanting, entheogens and hallucinogens, spirit communication and healing) as being definitive of shamanism is poor practice.” ref 

“Such citations ignore the fact that those practices exist outside of what is defined as shamanism and play similar roles even in nonshamanic cultures (such as the role of chanting in rituals in Abrahamic religions) and that in their expression are unique to each culture that uses them. Such practices cannot be generalized easily, accurately, or usefully into a global religion of shamanism. Because of this, Kehoe is also highly critical of the hypothesis that shamanism is an ancient, unchanged, and surviving religion from the Paleolithic period.” ref  

“The term has been criticized for its perceived colonial roots, and as a tool to perpetuate perceived contemporary linguistic colonialism. By Western scholars, the term “shamanism” is used to refer to a variety of different cultures and practices around the world, which can vary dramatically and may not be accurately represented by a single concept. Billy-Ray Belcourt, an author and award-winning scholar from the Driftpile Cree Nation in Canada, argues that using language with the intention of simplifying culture that is diverse, such as Shamanism, as it is prevalent in communities around the world and is made up of many complex components, works to conceal the complexities of the social and political violence that Indigenous communities have experienced at the hands of settlers. Belcourt argues that language used to imply “simplicity” in regards to Indigenous culture, is a tool used to belittle Indigenous cultures, as it views Indigenous communities solely as a result of a history embroiled in violence, that leaves Indigenous communities only capable of simplicity and plainness.” ref 

“Anthropologist Mihály Hoppál also discusses whether the term “shamanism” is appropriate. He notes that for many readers, “-ism” implies a particular dogma, like Buddhism or Judaism. He recommends using the term “shamanhood” or “shamanship” (a term used in old Russian and German ethnographic reports at the beginning of the 20th century) for stressing the diversity and the specific features of the discussed cultures. He believes that this places more stress on the local variations and emphasizes that shamanism is not a religion of sacred dogmas, but linked to the everyday life in a practical way. Following similar thoughts, he also conjectures a contemporary paradigm shift. Piers Vitebsky also mentions that, despite really astonishing similarities, there is no unity in shamanism. The various, fragmented shamanistic practices and beliefs coexist with other beliefs everywhere. There is no record of pure shamanistic societies (although their existence is not impossible). Norwegian social anthropologist Hakan Rydving has likewise argued for the abandonment of the terms “shaman” and “shamanism” as “scientific illusions.” ref 

“Dulam Bumochir has affirmed the above critiques of “shamanism” as a Western construct created for comparative purposes and, in an extensive article, has documented the role of Mongols themselves, particularly “the partnership of scholars and shamans in the reconstruction of shamanism” in post-1990/post-communist Mongolia. This process has also been documented by Swiss anthropologist Judith Hangartner in her landmark study of Darhad shamans in Mongolia. Historian Karena Kollmar-Polenz argues that the social construction and reification of shamanism as a religious “other” actually began with the 18th-century writings of Tibetan Buddhist monks in Mongolia and later “probably influenced the formation of European discourse on Shamanism.” ref

Shamanism by Donald Pollock

“Shamanism – Anthropology – Oxford Bibliographies”

 Introduction: Shamanism has been regarded as one of the world’s oldest religions as well as one of its newest; evidence of shamanic practice has been found in Paleolithic cave art, and shamanic experiences are being cultivated in contemporary societies, especially in its “New Age” or neoshamanism variations. The narrowest conceptions of shamanism restrict the use of the term to a specific form of religious practice found in Siberia, where the Tungus religious practitioner called šamán provided the model; Mircea Eliade’s classic study of shamanism (see Eliade 1964, cited under History of Shamanism and Shamanism Studies) grants historical and conceptual priority to this form of belief and practice, and traces its spread from those Siberian roots. Alternatively, it has been argued that the concept of shamanism should be extended to a nearly universal set of beliefs about spirits, spiritism, and occult realms. Bean 1992, for example (cited under North American and Native American Shamanism), comments that “Shamanism is the religion of all hunting and gathering cultures, and it forms the basis of many more formalized religions that retain shamanistic elements” (p. 8). Anthropologists have often adopted this broader perspective, seeking similarities among overtly different traditions typically by linking them according to the social functions served by shamans (e.g., healing through spirit intervention, community protection from malign spirit attack, and the pursuit of community political goals through the medium of spiritism). This bibliography adopts the relatively broad view that “shamanism” is a useful concept to describe a set of religious phenomena of historical depth and wide ethnographic extent, and that there is value in considering how a range of beliefs and practices are related to a basic set of defining characteristics, along with their relationship to other social and cultural phenomena. “Shamanism” has been recently described as a form of interaction between a practitioner and spirits, one that is not available to other members of a community; the practitioner (a “shaman”) acts on behalf of that community—or on behalf of individual members of that community—to perform a variety of social roles that may include healing as well as harming, affecting the outcome of subsistence activities, and so on, by intervention with spirits or through knowledge gained by communication with spirits (see Webb 2013 under the Nature of Shamanism, p. 62). As such, shamans are found in a variety of cultures that are not traditionally associated with the concept, for example as spirit mediums in sub-Saharan Africa and through spirit possession in East Asia. This bibliography considers these themes through sections on the history of the concept itself, studies of the nature of shamanism, and analyses of shamanism in various cultures around the world.” ref

“There are many variations of shamanism throughout the world, but several common beliefs are shared by all forms of shamanism. Common beliefs identified by Eliade (1972) are the following:

  • Spirits exist and they play important roles both in individual lives and in human society
  • The shaman can communicate with the spirit world
  • Spirits can be benevolent or malevolent
  • The shaman can treat sickness caused by malevolent spirits
  • The shaman can employ trances inducing techniques to incite visionary ecstasy and go on vision quests
  • The shaman’s spirit can leave the body to enter the supernatural world to search for answers
  • The shaman evokes animal images as spirit guidesomens, and message-bearers
  • The shaman can perform other varied forms of divinationscry, throw bones or runes, and sometimes foretell of future events” ref

“As Alice Kehoe notes, Eliade’s conceptualization of shamans produces a universalist image of Indigenous cultures, which perpetuates notions of the dead (or dying) Indian as well as the noble savage. Shamanism is based on the premise that the visible world is pervaded by invisible forces or spirits which affect the lives of the living. Although the causes of disease lie in the spiritual realm, inspired by malicious spirits, both spiritual and physical methods are used to heal.” ref

“Commonly, a shaman “enters the body” of the patient to confront the spiritual infirmity and heals by banishing the infectious spirit. Spirits are invisible entities that only shamans can see. They are seen as persons that can assume a human or animal body. Some animals in their physical forms are also seen as spirits such as the case of the eaglesnakejaguar, and rat. Beliefs related to spirits can explain many different phenomena. For example, the importance of storytelling, or acting as a singer, can be understood better if the whole belief system is examined. A person who can memorize long texts or songs, and play an instrument, may be regarded as the beneficiary of contact with the spirits (e.g. Khanty people).” ref

“Many shamans have expert knowledge of medicinal plants native to their area, and an herbal treatment is often prescribed. In many places shamans learn directly from the plants, harnessing their effects and healing properties, after obtaining permission from the indwelling or patron spirits. In the Peruvian Amazon Basin, shamans and curanderos use medicine songs called icaros to evoke spirits. Before a spirit can be summoned it must teach the shaman its song. The use of totemic items such as rocks with special powers and an animating spirit is common.” ref

“Such practices are presumably very ancient. Plato wrote in his Phaedrus that the “first prophecies were the words of an oak”, and that those who lived at that time found it rewarding enough to “listen to an oak or a stone, so long as it was telling the truth”. Belief in witchcraft and sorcery, known as brujería in Latin America, exists in many societies. Other societies assert all shamans have the power to both cure and kill. Those with shamanic knowledge usually enjoy great power and prestige in the community, but they may also be regarded suspiciously or fearfully as potentially harmful to others.” ref

“By engaging in their work, a shaman is exposed to significant personal risk as shamanic plant materials can be toxic or fatal if misused. Spells are commonly used in an attempt to protect against these dangers, and the use of more dangerous plants is often very highly ritualized. Healing may be based closely on the soul concepts of the belief system of the people served by the shaman. It may consist of the supposed retrieving the lost soul of the ill person. Generally, shamans traverse the axis mundi and enter the “spirit world” by effecting a transition of consciousness, entering into an ecstatic trance, either autohypnotically or through the use of entheogens or ritual performances. The methods employed are diverse, and are often used together.” ref

“An entheogen (“generating the divine within”) is a psychoactive substance used in a religious, shamanic, or spiritual context. Entheogens have been used in a ritualized context, in a number of different cultures, possibly for thousands of years. Examples of substances used by some cultures as entheogens include: peyoteEchinopsis pachanoipsilocybin and Amanita muscaria (fly agaric) mushrooms, uncured tobaccocannabisayahuascaSalvia divinorum, and iboga. Entheogens also have a substantial history of commodification, especially in the realm of spiritual tourism. For instance, countries such as Brazil and Peru have faced an influx of tourists since the psychedelic era beginning in the late 1960s, initiating what has been termed “ayahuasca tourism.” ref 


Regional Forms of Shamanism

Shamanism is a religious practice present in various cultures and religions around the world. Shamanism takes on many different forms, which vary greatly by region and culture and are shaped by the distinct histories of its practitioners. There is an endeavor in some contemporary occult and esoteric circles to reinvent shamanism in a modern form, often drawing from core shamanism — a set of beliefs and practices synthesized by Michael Harner — centered on the use of ritual drumming and dance and Harner’s interpretations of various indigenous religions. Harner has faced criticism for taking pieces of diverse religions out of their cultural contexts in an attempt to create “universal” shamanistic practices. Some neoshamans focus on the ritual use of entheogens, and also embrace the philosophies of chaos magic while others (such as Jan Fries) have created their own forms of shamanism.” ref

“European-based neoshamanic traditions are focused upon the researched or imagined traditions of ancient Europe, where many mystical practices and belief systems were suppressed by the Christian church. Some of these practitioners express a desire to practice a system that is based upon their own ancestral traditions. Some anthropologists and practitioners have discussed the impact of such neoshamanism as “giving extra pay” (Harvey, 1997 and elsewhere) to indigenous American traditions, particularly as many pagan or heathen shamanic practitioners do not call themselves shamans, but instead use specific names derived from the European traditions—they work within such as völva or seidkona (seid-woman) of the sagas (see Blain 2002, Wallis 2003).” ref

“Many spiritual seekers travel to Peru to work with ayahuasqueros, shamans who engage in the ritual use of ayahuasca. When taking ayahuasca, participants frequently report meeting spirits, and receiving divine revelations. Shamanistic techniques have also been used in New Age therapies which use enactment and association with other realities as an intervention.” ref 

Shared practices and beliefs

“Central Asian shamans served as sacred intermediaries between the human and spirit world. In this role they took on tasks such as healing, divination, appealing to ancestors, manipulating the elements, leading lost souls and officiating public religious rituals. The shamanic séance served as a public display of the shaman’s journey to the spirit world and usually involved intense trances, drumming, dancing, chanting, elaborate costumes, miraculous displays of physical strength, and audience involvement. The goal of these séances ranged from recovering the lost soul of a sick patient and divining the future to controlling the weather and finding a lost person or thing. The use of sleight-of-hand tricks, ventriloquism, and hypnosis were common in these rituals but did not explain the more impressive feats and actual cures accomplished by shamans.” ref

“Shamans perform in a “state of ecstasy” deliberately induced by an effort of will. Reaching this altered state of consciousness required great mental exertion, concentration and strict self-discipline. Mental and physical preparation included long periods of silent meditation, fasting, and smoking. In this state, skilled shamans employ capabilities that the human organism cannot accomplish in the ordinary state. Shamans in ecstasy displayed unusual physical strength, the ability to withstand extreme temperatures, the bearing of stabbing and cutting without pain, and the heightened receptivity of the sense organs. Shamans made use of intoxicating substances and hallucinogens, especially mukhomor mushrooms and alcohol, as a means of hastening the attainment of ecstasy.” ref

“The use of purification by fire is an important element of the shamanic tradition dating back as early as the 6th century. People and things connected with the dead had to be purified by passing between fires. These purifications were complex exorcisms while others simply involved the act of literally walking between two fires while being blessed by the shaman. Shamans in literature and practice were also responsible for using special stones to manipulate weather. Rituals are performed with these stones to attract rain or repel snow, cold or wind. This “rain-stone” was used for many occasions including bringing an end to drought as well as producing hailstorms as a means of warfare. Despite distinctions between various types of shamans and specific traditions, there is a uniformity throughout the region manifested in the personal beliefs, objectives, rituals, symbols, and the appearance of shamans.” ref 

Shamanic rituals as artistic performance

“The shamanic ceremony is both a religious ceremony and an artistic performance. The dramatic displays are not to draw attention or to create a spectacle, but to lead the tribe in a solemn ritualistic process. Performances consist of four elements: dance, music, poetry, and dramatic or mimetic action. The use of these elements serves the purpose of outwardly expressing his mystical communion with nature and the spirits for the rest of the tribe. The true shaman can make the journey to the spirit world at any time and any place, but shamanic ceremonies provide a way for the rest of the tribe to share in this religious experience. The shaman changes his voice mimetically to represent different persons, gods, and animals while his music and dance change to show his progress in the spirit world and his different spiritual interactions. Many shamans practice ventriloquism and make use of their ability to accurately imitate the sounds of animals, nature, humans, and other noises in order to provide the audience with the ambiance of the journey. Elaborate dances and recitations of songs and poetry are used to make the shaman’s spiritual adventures into a matter of living reality to his audience.” ref 

Costume and accessories

“The shaman’s attire varies throughout the region but his chief accessories are his coat, cap, and tambourine or drum. The transformation into an animal is an important aspect of the journey into the spirit world undertaken during shamanic rituals so the coat is often decorated with birds feathers and representations of animals, colored handkerchiefs, bells, and metal ornaments. The cap is usually made from the skin of a bird with the feathers and sometimes head, still attached. The drum or tambourine is the essential means of communicating with spirits and enabling the shaman to reach altered states of consciousness on his journey. The drum, representing the universe in epitome, is often divided into equal halves to represent the earth and lower realms. Symbols and natural objects are added to the drum representing natural forces and heavenly bodies.” ref

Shamanism, Music, and Healing in Two Contrasting South American Cultural Areas

“Abstract: Healing, as an aspect of shamanism, occurs in a variety of forms wherever it is practiced. Within a diversity of South American cultures and indigenous populations, supernaturally caused illnesses are cured by spiritually knowledgeable specialists (shamans) who, while in trance, encounter illness-causing spirits through dialogue or combat. This article focuses on two contrasting cultures from two widely different regions of South America: the Warao Amerindians from the rain forest of the Orinoco River Delta in northeastern Venezuela and the people from the desert of Peru’s northern coast, some of whom are possibly descendants of Moche or other pre-Spanish Amerindians. As different as these two cultures are, however, there are bases for comparison of their shamanistic and musical healing practices, which can provide insights into general characteristics of shamanistic healing through music.” ref 

The Role of Shamans in Native American Culture  by Claudine Cassar

“Shamans have played a significant role in Native American culture for centuries. These spiritual leaders were respected members of their communities, serving as mediators between humans and the spirit world. They were the custodians of important beliefs about interconnectedness, balance, and the power of nature. Native American cultures have a deep connection to nature and a reverence for the natural world. These cultures date back thousands of years and were shaped by their surroundings, including their environment, climate, and available resources.” ref

“Shamanism developed within these cultures as a way to connect with the spiritual world and maintain balance between humans and nature. Shamans were believed to have special abilities to communicate with spirits and deities, interpret dreams, heal illnesses, and provide guidance in times of need. The practice of shamanism varied among different Native American tribes, but it was an integral part of many cultures throughout North America. It was often passed down through family lines or taught through apprenticeship programs.” ref

“Shamans were highly respected members of their communities in Native American culture. They held a significant role as spiritual leaders, healers, and mediators between humans and the spirit world. Their abilities to communicate with spirits and deities made them valuable resources for those seeking guidance or healing. Shamans often served as counselors, providing advice on personal and communal matters. They also conducted ceremonies and rituals for important events such as births, deaths, and harvests.” ref

“One of the primary roles of shamans was to serve as mediators between humans and spirits or deities. They believed that everything in the natural world was connected and that spirits could influence human lives. Shamans acted as intermediaries by communicating with these spirits on behalf of their community members. Shamans would use various methods to communicate with spirits, including chanting, drumming, dancing, or using hallucinogenic substances. Through these practices, they would receive messages from the spirit world that they could interpret for their community members.” ref

“Native American shamans were revered members of their communities who served as healers, spiritual guides, and keepers of tradition. Through their knowledge of herbs, energy work, and other techniques, they helped restore balance and health to those who were sick or suffering. Shamans also played an important role in maintaining cultural traditions and passing them down through generations. They shared stories and teachings that helped connect people to their ancestors and the natural world around them. Today, Native Americans still incorporate shamanistic beliefs into their daily lives, finding comfort in the wisdom of their ancestors. Traditional ceremonies and healing practices continue to play a vital role in many communities.” ref

“As I understand it, Native people in the U.S. do not like the words shaman or shamanism. I think Native terminology is always best. The varieties of practice are enormous. One of the salient qualities of a practitioner is innovation and creativity interwoven with tradition.” – John Hoopes @KUHoopes

“In the general literature on native North Americans, every sort of priest, healer, ritual specialist, and sorcerer is somewhere called a shaman. Here the term is synonymous with some unarticulated notion of “primitive religious specialist.” ref 

“There is no substantive historical evidence that individuals recognizable as shamans existed among Celtic tribes or Druid groups (Matthews and Matthews 2002). Nevertheless, several folklorists and historians have noted intriguing similarities between elements of Celtic mythology, tradition, fairy tales, and art and practices traditionally identified as shamanic (e.g., Cowan 1993, 2002; Matthews and Matthews 1994; MacEowen 2002). These Celtic elements do, in fact, closely resemble what anthropologist Michael Harner (1990) has identified as common or nearly universal elements of indigenous shamanism.” ref 

“The idea of shamanism as a part of Celtic tradition has become very popular in recent years. Various authors and workshop presenters have promulgated the idea of a Celtic shamanism.” ref 

“In Old Norse, seiðr (sometimes anglicized as seidhr, seidh, seidr, seithr, seith, or seid) was a type of magic which was practiced in Norse society during the Late Scandinavian Iron Age. The practice of seiðr is believed to be a form of magic which is related to both the telling and the shaping of the future. Connected to the Old Norse religion, its origins are largely unknown, and the practice of it gradually declined after the Christianization of Scandinavia. Accounts of seiðr later made it into sagas and other literary sources, while further evidence of it has been unearthed by archaeologists. Various scholars have debated the nature of seiðr, some of them have argued that it was shamanic in context, involving visionary journeys by its practitioners.” ref

The Role of Shamanism in Mesoamerican Art A Reassessment

 “Abstract: Increasing numbers of scholars are relying on the concept of shamanism to interpret preColumbian artworks without examining its origins and questioning its viability. This essay explores the historical roots of this fields romance with the shaman and offers an explanation of its appeal. We argue that by avoiding such terms as priest, doctor, and political leader, the words shaman and shamanism have helped scholars to other preColumbian peoples by portraying them as steeped in magic and the spiritual. We begin with a look at when, where, and why this reductive representation emerged in preColumbian art studies, suggesting that it originated as an idealist aversion to materialist explanations of human behavior. We then examine the sources and validity of the principal criteria used by PreColumbianists to identify shamanism in works of art and look at some possible reasons for shamanisms popularity among them. We conclude that there is a pressing need to create a more refined, more nuanced terminology that would distinguish, crossculturally, among the many different kinds of roles currently lumped together under the vague and homogenizing rubric of shaman.” ref

On Scorpions, Birds and Snakes—Evidence for Shamanism in Northern Mesopotamia during the Early Holocene

“Abstract: Based on a systematic ethno-archaeological approach and comparison of figurative decorations in northern Mesopotamia, we suggest new interpretations of the figurative art of early Holocene sites in that region. Recently discovered decorated objects from different early Holocene sites hint at shamanistic practices and at close culturalideological ties in northern Mesopotamia from the upper Tigris to the middle Euphrates during the early Holocene. The data indicate a highly standardized symbolic repertoire. We argue that the monumental buildings at Göbekli Tepe and the emergence of standardized associations of motives indicate a society in a liminal state, with adherents still closely tied to their traditions; but some aspects of the applied mediality distinguish them from the highly flexible and situational ideologies of hunter-gatherers and point to the development of institutionalized religious authorities and dogma before farming.” ref

Native Americans—and their genes—traveled back to Siberia, new genomes reveal. Other ancient DNA sheds light on the tangled human history of northern Asia after the ice age.


“Ancient genomes analyzed in the study underscore that ancient Siberia was a human crossroads. Six came from the mountainous Altai region near/in Mongolia, dating to between 5500 and 7500 years ago. Five of these so-called Altai hunter-gatherers belonged to a population that apparently gave rise to several later peoples who spread throughout the Central Asian steppe during the Bronze Age. One of the six, buried with ritualistic items suggesting he may have been a shaman, had ancient Northeast Asian ancestry—the westernmost example of this lineage yet found. And a 7000-year-old individual found near Russia’s far eastern border with China appears to derive more than one-quarter of their ancestry from a group that lived on the Japanese archipelago called the Jōmon people. The Jōmon settled these islands some 30,000 years ago, but the genome suggests the islanders maintained at least some contact with mainland populations, Posth says. “They’re really clearly showing there’s something Jōmon-like on the mainland,” says Melinda Yang, a geneticist at the University of Richmond who studies the genetic history of ancient East Asian populations. The paper is “fine-tuning” our understanding of how East Asian ancestry came to permeate Siberia during the Holocene.” ref 

SHAMANS AND SYMBOLS PREHISTORY OF SEMIOTICS IN ROCK ART. Mihály Hoppál. International Society for Shamanistic Research (for more info):

Spirits and Stones: Shamanism and Rock Art in Central Asia and Siberia (for more info):

Rock art and the material culture of Siberian and Central Asian Shamanism (for more info):

Historic and Proto-Historic Shamanic Rock Art in Siberia: A View from the Altai (for more info):

Exploring the Cave Rock Art of Siberian Trans-Baikal: Fertility, Shamanism, and Gender (for more info):

(PDF) A Method for Determining the Practice of Shamanism in Archeological Cultures. Results indicate Cimmerians and Scythians had shamanistic worldviews, techniques, and rituals identical to those of Siberian shamans (for more info):

Terpander and the Acoustics of Greek Shamanism by Amir Yeruham

 From “The Society for Classical Studies (SCS), which was founded as the American Philological Association in 1869 by “professors, friends, and patrons of linguistic science”  

“In the long scholarly debate revolving around the role of shamanism in ancient Greek society, the musical elements of the “trade” were seldom overlooked, even though, cross-culturally, the association of music with ritualistic power is a central feature of shamanistic practitioners. For shamans around the world, sound and rhythm are the basic keys for achieving ritualistic powers and expedite altered state of consciousness. Musical practices are therefore frequently present in manifold instances of shamanistic rituals of healing, purification, divination, communication with the spirit and animal worlds, and more.” ref

“Shamans, in diverse societies and periods, also shares a specific social musical role, in that they are regarded as keepers of their communities religious and cultural heritage, encoded in ritualistic speech and music, a knowledge they, in turn, mediate to their communities in public musical performances, representational or possessive in nature, using musical and poetical symbolism, mimetic dance moves and special attire. In both of those areas, i.e. the ritualistic power of music and the performative configuration of the shaman, the Greek world wasn’t exceptional. Greek tradition, as depicted in myths, histories and iconography, had intimate knowledge of, and referred frequently to musico-shamanistic notions and practices, and musicians assumed shamanistic roles, or, at least, demonstrated strong shamanistic attributes.” ref

“In fact, Greek society enclosed several distinct shamanistic Soundscapes, meaning different socially prescribed sets of assumptions and traditions governing the types of acoustic patterns, poetic styles, dances, organology, myth, and ritual ideology practiced in a given locality or cult. Beginning in the archaic period we can discern several acoustically and ideologically distinct but sometimes overlapping cultic Soundscapes, shamanistic in nature, each following a unique set of practices, evolution, and history. Those Soundscapes, by their historically distinguishable musical elements, can be mapped topographically in order to garner our understanding concerning the praxis and diffusion of Greek shamanism in the ancient Mediterranean.” ref

“In light of this, as a case study, I would like to propose an examination of a single shamanistic Greek Soundscape, that of Lesbian Apollo as was been practiced by Lesbian kitharoidoi in general and by Terpander in particular. Terpander, not traditionally regarded as a shaman, is nevertheless situated in a matrix of shamanistic practices and ideologies. He is connected to rites of healing and musical purifications, to magico-ritualistic manipulations of the lyre and even to divination through his alleged inheritance of the lyre of Orpheus. By focusing on Terpander, the role-model of lesbian kitharoidia, I hope to stress the role played by lesbian lyre players in archaic times in converging and mediating shamanistic traditions and identities connected with Apollo through repeated participation in pan-Hellenic rituals, competitions, and festivals.” ref 

“Iatromantis is a Greek word whose literal meaning is most simply rendered “physician-seer.” The iatromantis, a form of Greek “shaman”, is related to other semimythical figures such as Abaris, Aristeas, Epimenides, and Hermotimus.” ref 

“Why not just retain the Greek term? You might as well say a doctor or physician is a modern form of “shaman.” – John Hoopes @KUHoopes

John Hoopes (Department of Anthropology, University of Kansas), who Graham Hancock thinks is “the most vehement and insulting of all archaeologists” and I think is great, addresses Pseudoarchaeology, Pseudohistory, and Pseudoscience

My response, I would not say doctor or physician as these are not religious professions and I see shamanism as a supernatural world view not just someone thought to be involved in desires to heal. I also agree the shamanism term use, does not remove the original terms used.

“The concept of “religion” is a modern invention. Mircea Eliade, whose notion of “shamanism” often prevails, had a hand in creating it.” – John Hoopes @KUHoopes

Manufacturing Religion: The Discourse on Sui Generis Religion and the Politics of Nostalgia

“In this book, author Russell McCutcheon offers a powerful critique of traditional scholarship on religion, focusing on multiple interrelated targets. Most prominent among these are the History of Religions as a discipline; Mircea Eliade, one of the founders of the modern discipline; recent scholarship on Eliade’s life and politics; contemporary textbooks on world religions; and the oft-repeated bromide that “religion” is a sui generis phenomenon. McCutcheon skillfully analyzes the ideological basis for and service of the sui generis argument, demonstrating that it has been used to constitute the field’s object of study in a form that is ahistoric, apolitical, fetishized, and sacrosanct. As such, he charges, it has helped to create departments, jobs, and publication outlets for those who are comfortable with such a suspect construction, while establishing a disciplinary ethos of astounding theoretical naivete and a body of scholarship to match. Surveying the textbooks available for introductory courses in comparative religion, the author finds that they uniformly adopt the sui generis line and all that comes with it. As a result, he argues, they are not just uncritical (which helps keep them popular among the audiences for which they are intended, but badly disserve), but actively inhibit the emergence of critical perspectives and capacities. And on the geo-political scale, he contends, the study of religion as an ahistorical category participates in a larger system of political domination and economic and cultural imperialism.” ref 

Twitter Commenter to @KUHoopes – “In my experience, some few don’t like using the word… Most do and, unlike some US academics, easily acknowledge that it’s a useful, and widely understood in various languages, descriptive word in noun and adjectival form. It has existed in English for over 300 years so…”

“It existed as a term for a Siberian tradition. I agree with Alice Beck Kehoe that it should be reserved for that specific use. Mircea Eliade’s broad use was both ethnocentric and exclusionary, with hints of antisemitism and racism. Why, for example, are the terms “shaman” and “shamanism” so rarely applied to Africa, which arguably has the most diverse trance- and nature-related healing traditions in the world? Why didn’t Eliade discuss Africa? For what it’s worth, Eliade’s discussion of “shamanism” made no mention of psychotropic substances and barely mentioned women at all.– John Hoopes @KUHoopes

Twitter Commenter to John Hoopes – “Shamanism/Shaman is a useful term for what is an important role and a word in general use by museums, anthropologists, archaeologists, journalists and the wider public…”

“I disagree. “Shamanism” has been irredeemably tainted by its association with Mircea Eliade, an antisemite, Traditionalist, and former propagandist for the Romanian Iron Guard.– John Hoopes @KUHoopes 

Second Twitter Commenter – “A Native American spiritual leader told me that a non-tribal person came knocking on his door asking him for ayahuasca. The individual said he wanted to learn more about Indians through their shaman. My friend responded that you can start by going home and learning our language. The writer of the Anthropology Review article @claudinecassar is “fascinated by anthropology, mafias and organized crime.” Fascinating.”

 “Yes, but Native and Indigenous groups in the Americas shouldn’t be forced to accept a Tungus term. They have their own words and concepts, and these should be respected. “Shaman” has become associated with fraud and misrepresentation, and rightly so. For the Bribri people of Costa Rica, there are three main types of practitioners: the usékar, the isogro, and the awá. The first addresses community-wide illnesses, the second is a “funeral singer,” and the third heals individual illnesses. In lowland, South America, these practitioners are often referred to only indirectly through the use of Indigenous terms for “jaguar.” That is, “jaguar” substitutes for the term that might be similar to “shaman.” We can respect those traditions by doing that in English, too. For the Kogi of the Sierra Nevada de Santa Marta in Colombia, the mamo or mama is a highly trained and disciplined tradition keeper and adjudicator as well as a healer of the community. There are several in each Kogi community. Traditional healing practices vary widely. Drums are central to African trance-healing traditions. Rattles and songs are common in the Americas. Some used sucking and blowing to remove “pains.” Some use psychotropic plants and others do not. In Southeast Asia, ghosts play a role.” – John Hoopes @KUHoopes

Medicine Man

“A medicine man or medicine woman is a traditional healer and spiritual leader who serves a community of Indigenous people of the Americas. Individual cultures have their own names, in their respective languages, for spiritual healers and ceremonial leaders in their particular cultures. In the ceremonial context of Indigenous North American communities, “medicine” usually refers to spiritual healing. Medicine men/women should not be confused with those who employ Native American ethnobotany, a practice that is very common in a large number of Native American and First Nations households. The terms medicine people or ceremonial people are sometimes used in Native American and First Nations communities, for example, when Arwen Nuttall (Cherokee) of the National Museum of the American Indian writes, “The knowledge possessed by medicine people is privileged, and it often remains in particular families.” ref

“Native Americans tend to be quite reluctant to discuss issues about medicine or medicine people with non-Indians. In some cultures, the people will not even discuss these matters with American Indians from other tribes. In most tribes, medicine elders are prohibited from advertising or introducing themselves as such. As Nuttall writes, “An inquiry to a Native person about religious beliefs or ceremonies is often viewed with suspicion.” One example of this is the Apache medicine cord or Izze-kloth whose purpose and use by Apache medicine elders was a mystery to nineteenth century ethnologists because “the Apache look upon these cords as so sacred that strangers are not allowed to see them, much less handle them or talk about them.” ref

“The 1954 version of Webster’s New World Dictionary of the American Language reflects the poorly-grounded perceptions of the people whose use of the term effectively defined it for the people of that time: “a man supposed to have supernatural powers of curing disease and controlling spirits.” In effect, such definitions were not explanations of what these “medicine people” are to their own communities but instead reported on the consensus of socially and psychologically remote observers when they tried to categorize the individuals. The term medicine man/woman, like the term shaman, has been criticized by Native Americans, as well as other specialists in the fields of religion and anthropology.” ref

“While non-Native anthropologists often use the term shaman for indigenous healers worldwide, including the Americas, shaman is the specific name for a spiritual mediator from the Tungusic peoples of Siberia and is not used in Native American or First Nations communities. There are many fraudulent healers and scam artists who pose as Cherokee “shamans”, and the Cherokee Nation has had to speak out against these people, even forming a task force to handle the issue. In order to seek help from a Cherokee medicine person, a person needs to know someone in the community who can vouch for them and provide a referral. Usually one makes contact through a relative who knows the healer.” ref

Midwives represent a major category of traditional healers around the world, but Eliade did not discuss midwives as “shamans.” Tedlock sees women as the original shamans. The Woman in the Shaman’s Body: Reclaiming the Feminine in Religion and Medicine.” – John Hoopes @KUHoopes 

Third Twitter Commenter – “It might be worth noting here that some etymologists believe that the word is connected to the Tungus root sā-, meaning “To Know”. Interestingly, the Mazatec “curandera” or “shaman” Marina Sabina preferred the indigenous term “Sa-bia”, meaning – you got it… “To Know”, – Gnosis.”

Fourth Twitter Commenter – “Sabia” is Spanish, not mazatec… But the equivalent in Nahuatl is tlamatki lit. “knower of things”, and in Wixárika mara’akame with the same original meaning. Maria and Sabina are common Spanish names.”

“Was Sabina a surname or an honorific? Yes, it comes from the Spanish verb “saber” (“to know”). Note that Spanish also has the verb “entender” (“to understand”) and “comprender” (“to comprehend”). These are different things.” – John Hoopes @KUHoopes 

Fourth Twitter Commenter – “I would translate Spanish sabia/sabio as “sage” in English, not as wizard in spite of the etymological similarity. But I agree the connection between knowledge/wisdom and nagic/shamanism is interesting.”

Third Twitter Commenter – “Sage! Yes! – and isn’t that appropriate for the “Diviner’s sage”! Great thread fellows! Thanks for your “gnosis”! Yeah… mea culpa. I think I tried repair that a little in my later post…”

“To be consistent, the English translation would be “wizard.” Unfortunately, just as “devil” comes from “deva” and “demon” comes from “daimon,” the English terms for these non-Christian practices have been stigmatized and altered through Christian usage.” – John Hoopes @KUHoopes 

Third Twitter Commenter – “Since she preferred “Sabia” – the feminine singular of the masculine Sabio (wise advisor) in the Spanish mestizo dialect, I use that term for myself in my guided Salvia divinorum vision quests, since this Knowledge, and the plants, pretty much came through her lineage.”

“The meaning of “sabia” seems to parallel that of “shaman.” In English, the parallel construction would be “wizard,” originally meaning a wise person. “Wizard” is to “wise” as “drunkard” is to “drunk.” – John Hoopes @KUHoopes 

Third Twitter Commenter – “It is also interesting that the term “shaman” has become a generic term used by nearly everyone and appears in dictionaries, just as the term “Gnostic” became the broad term used by Catholics for their predecessors and competitors that is still in use today, for good and ill.” 

I think this can be traced to the problematic influence of Mircea Eliade. Dictionaries reflect both scholarly and vernacular usage, but they do not critique it. Dictionary definitions change as knowledge evolves.– John Hoopes @KUHoopes

Fourth Twitter Commenter – “But the equivalent in Nahuatl is tlamatki lit. “knower of things”, and in Wixárika mara’akame with the same original meaning.”

“Is “tlamatki” related to “tlamacazqui”? There is also “tlamatini.” “Tlamatinime” is also related.” – John Hoopes @KUHoopes

Fourth Twitter Commenter – “No, tlamzcazqui us someone should gives from the verb maca “to give”, whereas tlamatki and tlamatini are from the verb mati “to know” Yes, tlamatqui and tlamatini are just variants with slightly different semantic implications. Tlamacazqui is “someone who gives” from the verb maca “to give”, whereas tlamatki and tlamatini are from the verb mati “to know.”

“Whether these were “shamans” or “priests” (or rabbis) probably depends on the consistency of their training, their routinization of practice, and the relationship of these to formal doctrine. Shamans are free agents. Priests are bound to dogma. Both can be “wise men.” – John Hoopes @KUHoopes

The Woman in the Shaman’s Body: Reclaiming the Feminine in Religion and Medicine (2005)

by Barbara Tedlock Ph.D. 

“A distinguished anthropologist–who is also an initiated shaman–reveals the long-hidden female roots of the world’s oldest form of religion and medicine. Here is a fascinating expedition into this ancient tradition, from its prehistoric beginnings to the work of women shamans across the globe today. Shamanism was not only humankind’s first spiritual and healing practice, it was originally the domain of women. This is the claim of Barbara Tedlock’s provocative and myth-shattering book. Reinterpreting generations of scholarship, Tedlock–herself an expert in dreamwork, divination, and healing–explains how and why the role of women in shamanism was misinterpreted and suppressed, and offers a dazzling array of evidence, from prehistoric African rock art to modern Mongolian ceremonies, for women’s shamanic powers.” ref

“Tedlock combines firsthand accounts of her own training among the Maya of Guatemala with the rich record of women warriors and hunters, spiritual guides, and prophets from many cultures and times. Probing the practices that distinguish female shamanism from the much better-known male traditions, she reveals:

• The key role of body wisdom and women’s eroticism in shamanic trance and ecstasy

• The female forms of dream witnessing, vision questing, and use of hallucinogenic drugs

• Shamanic midwifery and the spiritual powers released in childbirth and monthly female cycles

• Shamanic symbolism in weaving and other feminine arts

• Gender shifting and male-female partnership in shamanic practice” ref

“Filled with illuminating stories and illustrations, The Woman in the Shaman’s Body restores women to their essential place in the history of spirituality and celebrates their continuing role in the worldwide resurgence of shamanism today.” ref 

Witch Doctor 

“A witch doctor (also spelled witch-doctor) was originally a type of healer who treated ailments believed to be caused by witchcraft. The term is now more commonly used to refer to healers, particularly in regions which use traditional healing rather than contemporary medicine. In its original meaning, witch doctors were not exactly witches themselves, but rather people who had remedies to protect others against witchcraft.” ref

“Witchcraft-induced conditions were their area of expertise, as described in this 1858 news report from England:

Recourse was had by the girl’s parents to a cunning man, named Burrell, residing at Copford, who has long borne the name of “The Wizard of the North:” but her case was of so peculiar a character as to baffle his skill to dissolve the spell, Application was next made to a witch doctor named Murrell, residing at Hadleigh, Essex, who undertook to effect a cure, giving a bottle of medication, for which he did not forget to charge 3s. 6d., and promising to pay a visit on Monday evening to the “old witch,” Mrs. Mole, and put an end to her subtle arts… …the news of the expected coming of the witch-doctor spread far and wide, and about eight o’clock there could not have been less than 200 people collected near the cottage of Mrs. Mole to witness the supernatural powers of the Hadleigh wizard.” ref

“The Oxford English Dictionary states that the first record of the use of this term was in 1718, in Francis Hutchinson’s work An Historical Essay concerning Witchcraft, with Observations upon Matters of Fact; Tending to Clear the Texts of the Sacred Scriptures, and Confute the Vulgar Errors about that Point. Hutchinson used the phrase in a chapter defending a prisoner who was charged with witchcraft, by asserting that the “Witch-Doctor” himself was the one using sorcery:

The said Dorothy Durent, having been with a Witch-Doctor, acknowledges upon Oath, that by his Advice she hang’d up her Child’s Blanket in the Chimney, found a Toad in it at Night, had put it into the Fire, and held it there tho’ it made a great and horrible Noise, and flash’d like Gunpowder, and went off like a Pistol, and then became invisible, and that by this the Prisoner was scorch’d and burn’d lamentably. Charles Mackay‘s book, Extraordinary Popular Delusions and the Madness of Crowds, first published in 1841, attests to the practice of belief in witch doctors in England at the time.” ref

“In the north of England, the superstition lingers to an almost inconceivable extent. Lancashire abounds with witch-doctors, a set of quacks, who pretend to cure diseases inflicted by the devil. The practices of these worthies may be judged of by the following case, reported in the “Hertford Reformer,” of the 23rd of June, 1838. The witch-doctor alluded to is better known by the name of the cunning man, and has a large practice in the counties of Lincoln and Nottingham. According to the writer in “The Reformer,” the dupe, whose name is not mentioned, had been for about two years afflicted with a painful abscess and had been prescribed for without relief by more than one medical gentleman.” ref

“He was urged by some of his friends, not only in his own village but in neighboring ones, to consult the witch-doctor, as they were convinced he was under some evil influence. He agreed and sent his wife to the cunning man, who lived in New Saint Swithin’s, in Lincoln. She was informed by this ignorant impostor that her husband’s disorder was an infliction of the devil, occasioned by his next-door neighbors, who had made use of certain charms for that purpose. From the description he gave of the process, it appears to be the same as that employed by Dr. Fian and Gellie Duncan, to work woe upon King James. He stated that the neighbors, instigated by a witch, whom he pointed out, took some wax, and molded it before the fire into the form of her husband, as near as they could represent him; they then pierced the image with pins on all sides – repeated the Lord’s Prayer backwards, and offered prayers to the devil that he would fix his stings into the person whom that figure represented, in like manner as they pierced it with pins.” ref

“To counteract the effects of this diabolical process, the witch-doctor prescribed a certain medicine, and a charm to be worn next to the body, on that part where the disease principally lay. The patient was to repeat the 109th and 119th Psalms every day, or the cure would not be effectual. The fee which he claimed for this advice was a guinea. In southern Africa, traditional healers are known as sangomas. The Oxford English Dictionary states that the first use of the term “witch doctor” to refer to African shamans (i.e. medicine men) was in 1836 in a book by Robert Montgomery Martin. Jhākri (Nepali: झाक्री) is the Nepali word for shaman. It is sometimes reserved specifically for practitioners of Nepali shamanism, such as that practiced among the Tamang people and the Magars; it is also used in the Indian states of Sikkim and West Bengal, which border Nepal.” ref

“Jhākri shamanism is practiced among numerous ethnic groups of Nepal and Northeast India, including the LimbuRaiSunwarSherpaKamiTamangGurungMagarsLepcha, and Khas. Belief in spirits is prevalent, hence also the fear of spirit possession. Some vernacular words for jhākri are phedangbo in the Limbu languagemaangpa or nakchyong in Khambu, and boongthing in Lepcha. Jhākris perform rituals during weddings, funerals, and harvests. They diagnose and cure diseases. Their practices are influenced by HinduismTibetan BuddhismMun, and Bön rites. Even now the indigenous ethnic groups of AssamNortheastern India (especially in the Mayong region as well as other rural places) have shamanistic medicine man who treats diseases using sorcery as well as witchcraft and black magic for which it was once renowned. Similar Shamans and Medicine Man are prevalent among the indigenous communities throughout the rural areas of the NE India.” ref 

“I think “shaman” is misused (and avoided) for a huge variety of traditions around the world in a fashion similar to how the word “Black” is used as a cover for enormous non-white genetic & cultural & linguistic diversity in and from Africa and elsewhere. Any use of “shaman” needs to take a hard, critical look at why that term is applied in Europe, Asia, and the Americas but not in Africa. What’s up with that? There should also be a critical evaluation of the relationship between Central Asian shamanism and Tengrism. Only some shamanic traditions involve deities in the sky. Tengrism (also known as TengriismTengerism, or Tengrianism) is an ethnic TurkoMongolic religion originating in the Eurasian steppes based on shamanism and animism.– John Hoopes @KUHoopes

My response, I use the term shamanism/shaman to mean a similar related thing across the entire world including Africa but also acknowledge it is more a clarifier term that should not be seen as removing indigenous terms relating to things/beliefs/behaviors that may be seen as similar to the term shamanism/shaman.

Fifth Twitter Commenter – “It’s going to be an uphill battle. But I’m all for it. If folks are going to appropriate certain traditions with any sincerity, and I personally have nothing against that in principle, they need to use the terminology of said tradition.”

“In my experience, a lot of the literature on shamanism tends to assert it’s “the same thing” among different traditions the same way that some Perennialists (Eliade among them) assert that “the same truth” can be found at the heart of all religions. It’s just wishful thinking. I think the exercise of using specific Indigenous terminology will reveal the enormous diversity of beliefs and practices that tend to get lumped together under the umbrella of “shamanism.” The attempt to simplify does violence to actual complexity. At a similar “meta” level, the word “religion” is used to outline a poorly defined category that should include much more than what it typically includes. What represents a religion and what doesn’t? We need to rethink how Western terminology conditions our ethnocentric thinking.” – John Hoopes @KUHoopes

Third Twitter Commenter – “Hear hear. For most folks, when they say “religion” it’s from an Abrahamic perspective, atheist or not.”

Yes, and they’ll ask questions such as, “What’s your Bible?” and “Who’s your God?” as if every religion had to have those. Frankly, even the concepts of “gods” and “deities” need a major overhaul. We use lots of metaphors, as the ancient Greeks did. Are those “gods”? I don’t believe for a minute that Christianity is monotheistic. There are simply too many other supernatural entities, from angels to Satan to that complex Trinity. When the Commandment said, “Thou shalt have no other gods before me,” what, specifically, did it mean by “gods”?” – John Hoopes @KUHoopes



Religion: a personal set or institutionalized system of religious attitudes, beliefs, and practices. Others can be:

(1) Religion: the service and worship of God or the supernatural

(2) Religion: commitment or devotion to religious faith or observance” ref

“Religionhuman beings’ relation to that which they regard as holy, sacred, absolute, spiritual, divine, or worthy of especial reverence. It is also commonly regarded as consisting of the way people deal with ultimate concerns about their lives and their fate after death. In many traditions, this relation and these concerns are expressed in terms of one’s relationship with or attitude toward gods or spirits; in more humanistic or naturalistic forms of religion, they are expressed in terms of one’s relationship with or attitudes toward the broader human community or the natural world. In many religions, texts are deemed to have scriptural status, and people are esteemed to be invested with spiritual or moral authority. Believers and worshippers participate in and are often enjoined to perform devotional or contemplative practices such as prayermeditation, or particular ritualsWorship, moral conduct, right belief, and participation in religious institutions are among the constituent elements of the religious life.” ref

“Religion is a range of socialcultural systems, including designated behaviors and practices, moralsbeliefsworldviewstextssanctified placespropheciesethics, or organizations, that generally relate humanity to supernaturaltranscendental, and spiritual elements—although there is no scholarly consensus over what precisely constitutes a religion. Different religions may or may not contain various elements ranging from the divinesacrednessfaith, and a supernatural being or beings.” ref

“Religious practices may include ritualssermons, commemoration or veneration (of deities or saints), sacrificesfestivalsfeaststrancesinitiationsmatrimonial and funerary services, meditationprayermusicartdance or public service. Religions have sacred histories and narratives, which may be preserved in sacred textssymbols and holy places, that primarily aim to give life meaning. Religions may contain symbolic tales that may attempt to explain the origin of life, the universe, and other phenomena; some followers believe these to be true stories. Traditionally, both faith and reason have been considered sources of religious beliefs.” ref

“There are an estimated 10,000 distinct religions worldwide, though nearly all of them have regionally based, relatively small followings. Four religions—ChristianityIslamHinduism, and Buddhism—account for over 77% of the world’s population, and 92% of the world either follows one of those four religions or identifies as nonreligious, meaning that the remaining 9,000+ faiths account for only 8% of the population combined. The religiously unaffiliated demographic includes those who do not identify with any particular religion, atheists, and agnostics, although many in the demographic still have various religious beliefs. A portion of the population, mostly located in Africa and Asia, are members of new religious movements. Scholars have indicated that global religiosity may be increasing due to religious countries having generally higher birth rates.” ref

“The study of religion comprises a wide variety of academic disciplines, including theologyphilosophy of religioncomparative religion, and social scientific studies. Theories of religion offer various explanations for its origins and workings, including the ontological foundations of religious being and belief.” ref

“The term religion comes from both Old French and Anglo-Norman (1200s CE) and means respect for sense of right, moral obligation, sanctity, what is sacred, reverence for the gods. It is ultimately derived from the Latin word religiō. According to Roman philosopher Ciceroreligiō comes from relegerere (meaning “again”) + lego (meaning “read”), where lego is in the sense of “go over”, “choose”, or “consider carefully”. Contrarily, some modern scholars such as Tom Harpur and Joseph Campbell have argued that religiō is derived from religarere (meaning “again”) + ligare (“bind” or “connect”), which was made prominent by St. Augustine following the interpretation given by Lactantius in Divinae institutiones, IV, 28. The medieval usage alternates with order in designating bonded communities like those of monastic orders: “we hear of the ‘religion’ of the Golden Fleece, of a knight ‘of the religion of Avys.” ref

“In classic antiquity, religiō broadly meant conscientiousness, sense of right, moral obligation, or duty to anything. In the ancient and medieval world, the etymological Latin root religiō was understood as an individual virtue of worship in mundane contexts; never as doctrine, practice, or actual source of knowledge. In general, religiō referred to broad social obligations towards anything including family, neighbors, rulers, and even towards GodReligiō was most often used by the ancient Romans not in the context of a relation towards gods, but as a range of general emotions which arose from heightened attention in any mundane context such as hesitation, caution, anxiety, or fear, as well as feelings of being bound, restricted, or inhibited.” ref 

“The term was also closely related to other terms like scrupulus (which meant “very precisely”), and some Roman authors related the term superstitio (which meant too much fear or anxiety or shame) to religiō at times. When religiō came into English around the 1200s as religion, it took the meaning of “life bound by monastic vows” or monastic orders. The compartmentalized concept of religion, where religious and worldly things were separated, was not used before the 1500s. The concept of religion was first used in the 1500s to distinguish the domain of the church and the domain of civil authorities; the Peace of Augsburg marks such instance, which has been described by Christian Reus-Smit as “the first step on the road toward a European system of sovereign states.” ref

“Roman general Julius Caesar used religiō to mean “obligation of an oath” when discussing captured soldiers making an oath to their captors. Roman naturalist Pliny the Elder used the term religiō to describe the apparent respect given by elephants to the night sky. Cicero used religiō as being related to cultum deorum (worship of the gods). In Ancient Greece, the Greek term threskeia (θρησκεία) was loosely translated into Latin as religiō in late antiquityThreskeia was sparsely used in classical Greece but became more frequently used in the writings of Josephus in the 1st century AD. It was used in mundane contexts and could mean multiple things from respectful fear to excessive or harmfully distracting practices of others, to cultic practices. It was often contrasted with the Greek word deisidaimonia, which meant too much fear.” ref

“Religion is modern concept. The concept was invented recently in the English language and is found texts from the 17th century due to events such as the splitting of Christendom during the Protestant Reformation and globalization in the Age of Exploration, which involved contact with numerous foreign cultures with non-European languages. Some argue that regardless of its definition, it is not appropriate to apply the term religion to non-Western cultures, while some followers of various faiths rebuke using the word to describe their own belief system.” ref

“The concept of religion was formed in the 16th and 17th centuries, despite the fact that ancient sacred texts like the Bible, the Quran, and others did not have a word or even a concept of religion in the original languages and neither did the people or the cultures in which these sacred texts were written. For example, there is no precise equivalent of religion in Hebrew, and Judaism does not distinguish clearly between religious, national, racial, or ethnic identities. One of its central concepts is halakha, meaning the walk or path sometimes translated as law, which guides religious practice and belief and many aspects of daily life. Even though the beliefs and traditions of Judaism are found in the ancient world, ancient Jews saw Jewish identity as being about an ethnic or national identity and did not entail a compulsory belief system or regulated rituals.” ref

“In the 1st century CE,  Josephus had used the Greek term ioudaismos (Judaism) as an ethnic term and was not linked to modern abstract concepts of religion or a set of beliefs. The very concept of “Judaism” was invented by the Christian Church, and it was in the 19th century that Jews began to see their ancestral culture as a religion analogous to Christianity. The Greek word threskeia, which was used by Greek writers such as Herodotus and Josephus, is found in the New TestamentThreskeia is sometimes translated as “religion” in today’s translations, but the term was understood as generic “worship” well into the medieval period. In the Quran, the Arabic word din is often translated as religion in modern translations, but up to the mid-1600s translators expressed din as “law”. The Sanskrit word dharma, sometimes translated as religion, also means law. Throughout classical South Asia, the study of law consisted of concepts such as penance through piety and ceremonial as well as practical traditions. Medieval Japan at first had a similar union between imperial law and universal or Buddha law, but these later became independent sources of power.” ref

“Though traditions, sacred texts, and practices have existed throughout time, most cultures did not align with Western conceptions of religion since they did not separate everyday life from the sacred. In the 18th and 19th centuries, the terms Buddhism, Hinduism, Taoism, Confucianism, and world religions first entered the English language. Native Americans were also thought of as not having religions and also had no word for religion in their languages either. No one self-identified as a Hindu or Buddhist or other similar terms before the 1800s.  “Hindu” has historically been used as a geographical, cultural, and later religious identifier for people indigenous to the Indian subcontinent. Throughout its long history, Japan had no concept of religion since there was no corresponding Japanese word, nor anything close to its meaning, but when American warships appeared off the coast of Japan in 1853 and forced the Japanese government to sign treaties demanding, among other things, freedom of religion, the country had to contend with this idea.” ref

“According to the philologist Max Müller in the 19th century, the root of the English word religion, the Latin religiō, was originally used to mean only reverence for God or the gods, careful pondering of divine things, piety (which Cicero further derived to mean diligence). Müller characterized many other cultures around the world, including Egypt, Persia, and India, as having a similar power structure at this point in history. What is called ancient religion today, they would have only called law. Scholars have failed to agree on a definition of religion. There are, however, two general definition systems: the sociological/functional and the phenomenological/philosophical.” ref

“The concept of religion originated in the modern era in the West. Parallel concepts are not found in many current and past cultures; there is no equivalent term for religion in many languages. Scholars have found it difficult to develop a consistent definition, with some giving up on the possibility of a definition. Others argue that regardless of its definition, it is not appropriate to apply it to non-Western cultures. An increasing number of scholars have expressed reservations about ever defining the essence of religion. They observe that the way the concept today is used is a particularly modern construct that would not have been understood through much of history and in many cultures outside the West (or even in the West until after the Peace of Westphalia).” ref 

“The MacMillan Encyclopedia of Religions states:

“The very attempt to define religion, to find some distinctive or possibly unique essence or set of qualities that distinguish the religious from the remainder of human life, is primarily a Western concern. The attempt is a natural consequence of the Western speculative, intellectualistic, and scientific disposition. It is also the product of the dominant Western religious mode, what is called the Judeo-Christian climate or, more accurately, the theistic inheritance from Judaism, Christianity, and Islam. The theistic form of belief in this tradition, even when downgraded culturally, is formative of the dichotomous Western view of religion. That is, the basic structure of theism is essentially a distinction between a transcendent deity and all else, between the creator and his creation, between God and man.” ref

“The anthropologist Clifford Geertz defined religion as a… system of symbols which acts to establish powerful, pervasive, and long-lasting moods and motivations in men by formulating conceptions of a general order of existence and clothing these conceptions with such an aura of factuality that the moods and motivations seem uniquely realistic.” Alluding perhaps to Tylor’s “deeper motive”, Geertz remarked that… we have very little idea of how, in empirical terms, this particular miracle is accomplished. We just know that it is done, annually, weekly, daily, for some people almost hourly; and we have an enormous ethnographic literature to demonstrate it.” ref

“The theologian Antoine Vergote took the term supernatural simply to mean whatever transcends the powers of nature or human agency. He also emphasized the cultural reality of religion, which he defined as… the entirety of the linguistic expressions, emotions and, actions and signs that refer to a supernatural being or supernatural beings. Peter Mandaville and Paul James intended to get away from the modernist dualisms or dichotomous understandings of immanence/transcendence, spirituality/materialism, and sacredness/secularity. They define religion as… a relatively-bounded system of beliefs, symbols and practices that addresses the nature of existence, and in which communion with others and Otherness is lived as if it both takes in and spiritually transcends socially-grounded ontologies of time, space, embodiment and knowing.” ref

“According to the MacMillan Encyclopedia of Religions, there is an experiential aspect to religion which can be found in almost every culture:

… almost every known culture [has] a depth dimension in cultural experiences … toward some sort of ultimacy and transcendence that will provide norms and power for the rest of life. When more or less distinct patterns of behavior are built around this depth dimension in a culture, this structure constitutes religion in its historically recognizable form. Religion is the organization of life around the depth dimensions of experience—varied in form, completeness, and clarity in accordance with the environing culture.” ref

Friedrich Schleiermacher in the late 18th century defined religion as das schlechthinnige Abhängigkeitsgefühl, commonly translated as “the feeling of absolute dependence”. His contemporary Georg Wilhelm Friedrich Hegel disagreed thoroughly, defining religion as “the Divine Spirit becoming conscious of Himself through the finite spirit.” Edward Burnett Tylor defined religion in 1871 as “the belief in spiritual beings”. He argued that narrowing the definition to mean the belief in a supreme deity or judgment after death or idolatry and so on, would exclude many peoples from the category of religious, and thus “has the fault of identifying religion rather with particular developments than with the deeper motive which underlies them”. He also argued that the belief in spiritual beings exists in all known societies.” ref

“In his book The Varieties of Religious Experience, the psychologist William James defined religion as “the feelings, acts, and experiences of individual men in their solitude, so far as they apprehend themselves to stand in relation to whatever they may consider the divine”. By the term divine James meant “any object that is godlike, whether it be a concrete deity or not” to which the individual feels impelled to respond with solemnity and gravity.” ref

“Sociologist Émile Durkheim, in his seminal book The Elementary Forms of the Religious Life, defined religion as a “unified system of beliefs and practices relative to sacred things”. By sacred things he meant things “set apart and forbidden—beliefs and practices which unite into one single moral community called a Church, all those who adhere to them”. Sacred things are not, however, limited to gods or spirits. On the contrary, a sacred thing can be “a rock, a tree, a spring, a pebble, a piece of wood, a house, in a word, anything can be sacred”. Religious beliefs, myths, dogmas and legends are the representations that express the nature of these sacred things, and the virtues and powers which are attributed to them.” ref

“Echoes of James’ and Durkheim’s definitions are to be found in the writings of, for example, Frederick Ferré who defined religion as “one’s way of valuing most comprehensively and intensively”. Similarly, for the theologian Paul Tillich, faith is “the state of being ultimately concerned”, which “is itself religion. Religion is the substance, the ground, and the depth of man’s spiritual life.” When religion is seen in terms of sacred, divine, intensive valuing, or ultimate concern, then it is possible to understand why scientific findings and philosophical criticisms (e.g., those made by Richard Dawkins) do not necessarily disturb its adherents.” ref

“A number of disciplines study the phenomenon of religion: theologycomparative religionhistory of religionevolutionary origin of religionsanthropology of religionpsychology of religion (including neuroscience of religion and evolutionary psychology of religion), law and religion, and sociology of religion. Daniel L. Pals mentions eight classical theories of religion, focusing on various aspects of religion: animism and magic, by E.B. Tylor and J.G. Frazer; the psycho-analytic approach of Sigmund Freud; and further Émile DurkheimKarl MarxMax WeberMircea EliadeE.E. Evans-Pritchard, and Clifford Geertz.” ref

Michael Stausberg gives an overview of contemporary theories of religion, including cognitive and biological approaches. Sociological and anthropological theories of religion generally attempt to explain the origin and function of religion. These theories define what they present as universal characteristics of religious belief and practice. Some academics studying the subject have divided religions into three broad categories:

  1. world religions, a term which refers to transcultural, international religions;
  2. indigenous religions, which refers to smaller, culture-specific, or nation-specific religious groups; and
  3. new religious movements, which refers to recently developed religions.” ref

“Some recent scholarship has argued that not all types of religion are necessarily separated by mutually exclusive philosophies, and furthermore that the utility of ascribing a practice to a certain philosophy, or even calling a given practice religious, rather than cultural, political, or social in nature, is limited. The current state of psychological study about the nature of religiousness suggests that it is better to refer to religion as a largely invariant phenomenon that should be distinguished from cultural norms (i.e. religions).” ref

“Some scholars classify religions as either universal religions that seek worldwide acceptance and actively look for new converts, such as Christianity, Islam, Buddhism and Jainism, while ethnic religions are identified with a particular ethnic group and do not seek converts. Others reject the distinction, pointing out that all religious practices, whatever their philosophical origin, are ethnic because they come from a particular culture. The five largest religious groups by world population, estimated to account for 5.8 billion people and 84% of the population, are Christianity, Islam, Buddhism, Hinduism (with the relative numbers for Buddhism and Hinduism dependent on the extent of syncretism) and traditional folk religion.” ref


Hinduism (/ˈhɪnduɪzəm/) is an Indian religion or dharma, a religious and universal order or way of life by which followers abide. As a religion, it is the world’s third-largest, with over 1.2–1.35 billion followers, or 15–16% of the global population, known as Hindus. The word Hindu is an exonym, and while Hinduism has been called the oldest religion in the world, many practitioners refer to their religion as Sanātana Dharma (Sanskrit: सनातन धर्म, lit. ”the Eternal Dharma”) which refers to the idea that its origins lie beyond human history, as revealed in the Hindu texts. Another endonym is Vaidika Dharma, the dharma related to the Vedas.” ref

“Hinduism is a diverse system of thought marked by a range of philosophies and shared concepts, ritualscosmological systemspilgrimage sites, and shared textual sources that discuss theologymetaphysicsmythology, Vedic yajnayogaagamic rituals, and temple building, among other topics. Described as a religious ‘category’ by Gavin Flood, prominent themes in Hindu beliefs include the four Puruṣārthas, the proper goals or aims of human life; namely, dharma (ethics/duties), artha (prosperity/work), kama (desires/passions) and moksha (liberation/freedom from the passions and the cycle of death and rebirth), as well as karma (action, intent and consequences) and saṃsāra (cycle of death and rebirth).” ref 

“Hinduism prescribes the eternal duties, such as honesty, refraining from injuring living beings (ahiṃsā), patience, forbearance, self-restraint, virtue, and compassion, among others. Hindu practices include worship (puja), fire rituals (homa/havan), devotion (bhakti), fasting (vrata), chanting (japa), meditation (dhyāna), sacrifice (yajña), charity (dāna), selfless service (sevā), learning and knowledge (jñāna), recitation and exposition of scriptures (pravacana), homage to one’s ancestors (śrāddha), family-oriented rites of passage, annual festivals, and occasional pilgrimages (yatra). Along with the various practices associated with yoga, some Hindus leave their social world and material possessions and engage in lifelong Sannyasa (monasticism) in order to achieve moksha.” ref

“Hindu texts are classified into Śruti (“heard”) and Smṛti (“remembered”), the major scriptures of which are the Vedas, the Upanishads, the Purānas, the Mahābhārata, the Rāmāyana, and the Āgamas. There are six āstika schools of Hindu philosophy, who recognise the authority of the Vedas, namely SānkhyaYogaNyāyaVaisheshikaMimāmsā, and Vedānta. While the Puranic chronology presents a genealogy of thousands of years, starting with the Vedic rishis, scholars regard Hinduism as a fusion or synthesis of Brahmanical orthopraxy with various Indian cultures, having diverse roots and no specific founder. This Hindu synthesis emerged after the Vedic period, between c. 500–200 BCE and c. 300 CE, in the period of the Second Urbanisation and the early classical period of Hinduism, when the Epics and the first Purānas were composed. It flourished in the medieval period, with the decline of Buddhism in India.” ref

“Currently, the four major denominations of Hinduism are VaishnavismShaivismShaktism, and the Smarta tradition. Sources of authority and eternal truths in the Hindu texts play an important role, but there is also a strong Hindu tradition of questioning authority in order to deepen the understanding of these truths and to further develop the tradition. Hinduism is the most widely professed faith in IndiaNepalMauritius, and in BaliIndonesia. Significant numbers of Hindu communities are found in other countries of South Asia, in Southeast Asia, in the CaribbeanGulf statesNorth AmericaEuropeOceaniaAfrica, and other regions.” ref

The word Hindū is derived from Indo-Aryan/Sanskrit root Sindhu, believed to be the name of the Indus River in the northwestern part of the Indian subcontinent. The Proto-Iranian sound change *s > h occurred between 850 and 600 BCE, according to Asko Parpola. According to Gavin Flood, “The actual term Hindu first occurs as a Persian geographical term for the people who lived beyond the river Indus (Sanskrit: Sindhu)”, more specifically in the 6th-century BCE inscription of Darius I (550–486 BCE). The term Hindu in these ancient records is a geographical term and did not refer to a religion. Thapar states that the word Hindu is found as heptahindu in Avesta – equivalent to Rigvedic sapta sindhu, while hndstn (pronounced Hindustan) is found in a Sasanian inscription from the 3rd century CE, both of which refer to parts of northwestern South Asia. In Arabic texts, al-Hind referred to the land beyond the Indus and therefore, all the people in that land were Hindus. This Arabic term was itself taken from the pre-Islamic Persian term Hindū. By the 13th century, Hindustan emerged as a popular alternative name of India, meaning the “land of Hindus.” ref

“Among the earliest known records of ‘Hindu’ with connotations of religion may be in the 7th-century CE Chinese text Record of the Western Regions by Xuanzang, and 14th-century Persian text Futuhu’s-salatin by ‘Abd al-Malik Isami. Some 16-18th century Bengali Gaudiya Vaishnava texts mention Hindu and Hindu dharma to distinguish from Muslims without positively defining these terms. In the 18th century, the European merchants and colonists began to refer to the followers of Indian religions collectively as Hindus. The use of the English term “Hinduism” to describe a collection of practices and beliefs is a fairly recent construction.” ref

“According to Singh, it was first used by Raja Ram Mohan Roy in 1816–17. According to other authors, the term “Hinduism” was coined in around 1830, and appropriated by those Indians who opposed British colonialism, and who wanted to distinguish themselves from Muslims and Christians. Before the British began to categorise communities strictly by religion, Indians generally did not define themselves exclusively through their religious beliefs; instead identities were largely segmented on the basis of locality, language, varṇajāti, occupation, and sect. This the British colonizers did roughly in the 19th century to evolve a common law to facilitate governance.” ref

“Hinduism includes a diversity of ideas on spirituality and traditions, but has no ecclesiastical order, no unquestionable religious authorities, no governing body, no prophet(s) nor any binding holy book; Hindus can choose to be polytheisticpantheisticpanentheisticpandeistichenotheisticmonotheisticmonisticagnosticatheistic or humanist. According to Doniger, “ideas about all the major issues of faith and lifestyle – vegetarianism, nonviolence, belief in rebirth, even caste – are subjects of debate, not dogma.” Because of the wide range of traditions and ideas covered by the term Hinduism, arriving at a comprehensive definition is difficult.” ref 

“The religion “defies our desire to define and categorize it”. Hinduism has been variously defined as a religion, a religious tradition, a set of religious beliefs, and “a way of life”. From a Western lexical standpoint, Hinduism like other faiths is appropriately referred to as a religion. In India, the term dharma is preferred, which is broader than the Western term religion. The study of India and its cultures and religions, and the definition of “Hinduism”, has been shaped by the interests of colonialism and by Western notions of religion. Since the 1990s, those influences and its outcomes have been the topic of debate among scholars of Hinduism, and have also been taken over by critics of the Western view on India.” ref

“McDaniel (2007) classifies Hinduism into six major kinds and numerous minor kinds, in order to understand the expression of emotions among the Hindus. The major kinds, according to McDaniel are Folk Hinduism, based on local traditions and cults of local deities and is the oldest, non-literate system; Vedic Hinduism based on the earliest layers of the Vedas traceable to 2nd millennium BCE; Vedantic Hinduism based on the philosophy of the Upanishads, including Advaita Vedanta, emphasizing knowledge and wisdom; Yogic Hinduism, following the text of Yoga Sutras of Patanjali emphasizing introspective awareness; Dharmic Hinduism or “daily morality”, which McDaniel states is stereotyped in some books as the “only form of Hindu religion with a belief in karma, cows and caste”; and bhakti or devotional Hinduism, where intense emotions are elaborately incorporated in the pursuit of the spiritual.” ref

“Michaels distinguishes three Hindu religions and four forms of Hindu religiosity. The three Hindu religions are “Brahmanic-Sanskritic Hinduism”, “folk religions and tribal religions”, and “founded religions”. The four forms of Hindu religiosity are the classical “karma-marga”, jnana-margabhakti-marga, and “heroism”, which is rooted in militaristic traditions. These militaristic traditions include Ramaism (the worship of a hero of epic literature, Rama, believing him to be an incarnation of Vishnu) and parts of political Hinduism. “Heroism” is also called virya-marga.” ref

“According to Michaels, one out of nine Hindu belongs by birth to one or both of the Brahmanic-Sanskritic Hinduism and Folk religion typology, whether practicing or non-practicing. He classifies most Hindus as belonging by choice to one of the “founded religions” such as Vaishnavism and Shaivism that are moksha-focussed and often de-emphasize Brahman priestly authority yet incorporate ritual grammar of Brahmanic-Sanskritic Hinduism. He includes among “founded religions” BuddhismJainism, Sikhism that are now distinct religions, syncretic movements such as Brahmo Samaj and the Theosophical Society, as well as various “Guru-isms” and new religious movements such as Maharishi Mahesh Yogi and ISKCON.” ref

“Inden states that the attempt to classify Hinduism by typology started in the imperial times, when proselytizing missionaries and colonial officials sought to understand and portray Hinduism from their interests. Hinduism was construed as emanating not from a reason of spirit but fantasy and creative imagination, not conceptual but symbolical, not ethical but emotive, not rational or spiritual but of cognitive mysticism. This stereotype followed and fit, states Inden, with the imperial imperatives of the era, providing the moral justification for the colonial project. From tribal Animism to Buddhism, everything was subsumed as part of Hinduism. The early reports set the tradition and scholarly premises for the typology of Hinduism, as well as the major assumptions and flawed presuppositions that have been at the foundation of Indology. Hinduism, according to Inden, has been neither what imperial religionists stereotyped it to be, nor is it appropriate to equate Hinduism to be merely the monist pantheism and philosophical idealism of Advaita Vedanta.” ref

“To its adherents, Hinduism is a traditional way of life. Many practitioners refer to the “orthodox” form of Hinduism as Sanātana Dharma, “the eternal law” or the “eternal way”. Hindus regard Hinduism to be thousands of years old. The Puranic chronology, the timeline of events in ancient Indian history as narrated in the Mahabharata, the Ramayana, and the Puranas, envisions a chronology of events related to Hinduism starting well before 3000 BCE. The Sanskrit word dharma has a much broader meaning than religion and is not its equivalent. All aspects of a Hindu life, namely acquiring wealth (artha), fulfillment of desires (kama), and attaining liberation (moksha), are part of dharma, which encapsulates the “right way of living” and eternal harmonious principles in their fulfillment.” ref

“Beginning in the 19th century, Indian modernists re-asserted Hinduism as a major asset of Indian civilization, meanwhile “purifying” Hinduism from its Tantric elements and elevating the Vedic elements. Western stereotypes were reversed, emphasizing the universal aspects, and introducing modern approaches of social problems. This approach had a great appeal, not only in India, but also in the west. Major representatives of “Hindu modernism” are Ram Mohan RoySwami VivekanandaSarvepalli Radhakrishnan, and Mahatma Gandhi. Raja Rammohan Roy is known as the father of the Hindu Renaissance. He was a major influence on Swami Vivekananda (1863–1902), who, according to Flood, was “a figure of great importance in the development of a modern Hindu self-understanding and in formulating the West’s view of Hinduism”. Central to his philosophy is the idea that the divine exists in all beings, that all human beings can achieve union with this “innate divinity”, and that seeing this divine as the essence of others will further love and social harmony. According to Vivekananda, there is an essential unity to Hinduism, which underlies the diversity of its many forms. According to Flood, Vivekananda’s vision of Hinduism “is one generally accepted by most English-speaking middle-class Hindus today”. Sarvepalli Radhakrishnan sought to reconcile western rationalism with Hinduism, “presenting Hinduism as an essentially rationalistic and humanistic religious experience.” ref

“This “Global Hinduism” has a worldwide appeal, transcending national boundaries and, according to Flood, “becoming a world religion alongside Christianity, Islam and Buddhism”, both for the Hindu diaspora communities and for westerners who are attracted to non-western cultures and religions. It emphasizes universal spiritual values such as social justice, peace and “the spiritual transformation of humanity”. It has developed partly due to “re-enculturation”, or the Pizza effect, in which elements of Hindu culture have been exported to the West, gaining popularity there, and as a consequence also gained greater popularity in India. This globalization of Hindu culture brought “to the West teachings which have become an important cultural force in western societies, and which in turn have become an important cultural force in India, their place of origin”. The term Hinduism was coined in Western ethnography in the 18th century, and refers to the fusion  or synthesis of various Indian cultures and traditions, with diverse roots and no founder. This Hindu synthesis emerged after the Vedic period, between c. 500–200 BCE and c. 300 CE, in the period of the Second Urbanisation and the early classical period of Hinduism, when the Epics and the first Puranas were composed. It flourished in the medieval period, with the decline of Buddhism in India. Hinduism’s tolerance to variations in belief and its broad range of traditions make it difficult to define as a religion according to traditional Western conceptions.” ref

“Some academics suggest that Hinduism can be seen as a category with “fuzzy edges” rather than as a well-defined and rigid entity. Some forms of religious expression are central to Hinduism and others, while not as central, still remain within the category. Based on this idea Gabriella Eichinger Ferro-Luzzi has developed a ‘Prototype Theory approach’ to the definition of Hinduism. Hindu beliefs are vast and diverse, and thus Hinduism is often referred to as a family of religions rather than a single religion. Within each religion in this family of religions, there are different theologies, practices, and sacred texts. Hinduism does not have a “unified system of belief encoded in a declaration of faith or a creed“, but is rather an umbrella term comprising the plurality of religious phenomena of India. The Hindutva movement has extensively argued for the unity of Hinduism, dismissing the differences and regarding India as a Hindu-country since ancient times. And there are assumptions of political dominance of Hindu nationalism in India, also known as ‘Neo-Hindutva.” ref

I will grant you some religious mythology is quite interesting, but I never forget it is simple stories of hope, fear, and magical thinking arising from human ignorance fueled by imagination and presto people believe in things never seen. I hate religion as I hate harm, oppression, bigotry, and love equality, self-ownership, self-empowerment, self-actualization including self-mastery, as well as truth and not only does religion lie, it is a conspiracy theory of reality. I know that god-something is an unjustified and debunked claim of super supernatural when no supernatural any has ever been found to even start such claims.

I don’t think antireligionism is really anti-friendly-atheism, as it can involve being friendly to people even if it is harsh to religion, positive antireligionism or Anti-Accommodationism is attacking bad thinking and bad behaviors, not just people who believe. Not just an atheist and antitheist, I am a proud anti-religionist. I have greater confidence in science as they often admit errors and I have greater mistrust of religion as they often refuse to accept or admit errors. What I do not like about religion in one idea, religions as a group are “Conspiracy Theories of Reality,” usually filled with Pseudoscience, Pseudohistory, along with Pseudomorality, and other harmful aspects. 

An antireligionist generally means opposition to religion, this includes all, every religion or pseudo-religion, YES, I am an atheist and antitheist, who is “Anti” ALL RELIGIONS. But I am against the ideas, not people. We regrettably pay our life debt in our time lost living one moment at a time which seem to group together into what we call a life, so live as there just went another lost moment. 

“But Damien, Souls are real because energy does not die!”

My response, That is a logical fallacy as it is not a reasoned jump in logic. Energy leaves all once alive bodies by dissipating heat in the environment then is gone as the once related energy in a now dead body.

A truly rational mind sees the need for humanity, as they too live in the world and see themselves as they actually are an alone body in the world seeking comfort and safety. Thus, see the value of everyone around them as they too are the same and therefore rationally as well a humanistically we should work for this humanity we are part of and can either dwell in or help its flourishing as we are all in the hands of each other.

You are Free to think as you like but REALITY is unchanged. While you personally may react, or think differently about our shared reality (the natural world devoid of magic anything), We can play with how we use it but there is still only one communal reality (a natural non-supernatural one), which we all share like it or not and you can’t justifiably claim there is a different reality. This is valid as the only one of warrant is the non-mystical natural world around us all, existing in or caused by nature; not made or caused by superstitions like gods or other monsters, too many sill fear irrationally.

I know that god-something is is an unjustified and debunked claim of super supernatural when no supernatural any has ever been found to even start such claims. I am quite familiar with a general when and why gods were created. Gods are not in all religions nor their thinking. I believe that all claims of God will fail epistemic qualities need for belief and instead require disbelief in all of them, unless shown real epistemic value. 

Every child born with horrific deformities shows that those who believe in a loving god who is in control and values every life is not just holding a ridiculous belief; it is an offensive belief to the compassion for life and a loving morality. Prayer is nothing like hope, as prayer is the Belief in magic and a thing one is believed they are praying to is magical things or beings. Hope is a desire or aspiration, not a Belief in magical things or you have additional beliefs added in that hope.

Religion removed? All its pseudo meaning as well as pseudoscience, pseudohistory, and pseudo-morality. We have real science, realistic history and can access real morality with a blend of philosophy, anthropology, psychology, sociology, and cognitive science. I do not hate simply because I challenge and expose myths or lies any more than others being thought of as loving simply because of the protection and hiding from challenge their favored myths or lies.

Atheists talk about gods and religions for the same reason doctors talk about cancer, they are looking for a cure, or a firefighter talks about fires because they burn people and they care to stop them. We atheists too often feel a need to help the victims of mental slavery, held in the bondage that is the false beliefs of gods and the conspiracy theories of reality found in religions.

Religions, as we think of them today, are a new fad, even if they go back to around 6,000 years in the timeline of human existence, this amounts to almost nothing when seen in the long slow evolution of religion at least around 70,000 years ago with one of the oldest ritual worship. Stone Snake of South Africa: “first human worship” 70,000 years ago. This message of how religion and gods among them are clearly a man-made thing that was developed slowly as it was invented and then implemented peace by peace discrediting them all. Which seems to be a simple point some are just not grasping how devastating to any claims of truth when we can see the lie clearly in the archeological sites. 

I am not an academic. I am a revolutionary that teaches in public, in places like social media, and in the streets. I am not a leader by some title given but from my commanding leadership style of simply to start teaching everywhere to everyone, all manner of positive education.

I classify Animism (animated ‘spirit‘ or “supernatural” perspectives). I see all religious people as at least animists, so, all religions have at least some amount, kind, or expression of animism as well.

I want to make something clear as I can, as simple as I can, even though I classify Animism (animated and alive from Latin: anima, ‘breathspiritlife‘ or peoples’ “spiritual” or “supernatural” perspectives. Potentially, in some animism perceives, all things may relate to some spiritual/supernatural/non-natural inclinations, even a possible belief that objects, places, and/or creatures all possess a distinct spiritual essence, and/or thinking things like all things—animals, plants, rocks, rivers, weather systems, human handiwork, and perhaps even words— could be as animated and alive ref) as the first expression of religious thinking or religion, it is not less than, nor is it not equal to any other religion, or religious thinking. I see all religious people as at least animists any way, so everyone is at least animist, how could it be less than other religions as all other religions have at least some amount, kind, or expression of animism. Animism, +? is what I think about all that say they are spiritual or religious in thinking. Regardless if they know it, understand it, or claim it, they all, to me, an animistic-thinker, plus a paganistic, totemistic, and shamanistic-monotheist, calling themselves a Christian, Jew, or Muslim, as an example of my thinking. Animism (is the other-then-reality thinking relates to, thus it is in all such non-reality thinking generally.

I use the Animism term as a definition of spirit-beliefs or a kind of Supernatural-Spiritism thinking, that to me, are in all spiritual or religious type beliefs, not primitive but core. I see Animism as the original religion (religious non-naturalism/supernatural persuasion or spiritual/magical thinking) of all humanity and is still in all the religions of the world. Furthermore, I actually am impressed by animist cultures in Africa, others have seen them as primitive or something, help with that, they are revolutionaries with women’s rights, child rights. I mean if I had to choose a religion it would be animism only like in Africa so I don’t look down on them nor any indigenous peoples, who I care about, as well as I am for “humanity for all.” I challenge religious Ideas, and this is not meant to be an attack on people, but rather a challenge to think or rethink ideas, I want what is actually true. May we all desire a truly honest search for what is true even if we have to update what we believe or know. I even have religious friends, as I am not a bigot.

I class religious thinking in “time of origin” not somehow that any are better or worse or more reasoned than others. No, I am trying to help others understand how things happened, so they understand, and for themselves can finally think does the religion they say they believe in, still seems true, as they believed before learning my information and art. I am hoping I inspire freedom of thought and development of heart as well as mind as we need such a holistic approach in our quest for a humanity free for all and supportive of all. Until then, train your brain to think ethically. We are responsible for the future, we are the future, living in the present, soon to be passed, so we must act with passion, because life is over just like that. I am just another fellow dignity being. May I be a good human.

Here are a few of what I see as “Animist-only” Cultures:

“Aka people” Central African nomadic Mbenga pygmy people. PRONUNCIATION: AH-kah

“The Aka people are very warm and hospitable. Relationships between men and women are extremely egalitarian. Men and women contribute equally to a household’s diet, either a husband or wife can initiate divorce, and violence against women is very rare. No cases of rape have been reported. The Aka people are fiercely egalitarian and independent. No individual has the right to force or order another individual to perform an activity against his or her will. Aka people have a number of informal methods for maintaining their egalitarianism. First, they practice “prestige avoidance”; no one draws attention to his or her own abilities. Individuals play down their achievements.” ref

“Mbuti People”

“The Mbuti people are generally hunter-gatherers who commonly are in the Congo’s Ituri Forest have traditionally lived in stateless communities with gift economies and largely egalitarian gender relations. They were a people who had found in the forest something that made life more than just worth living, something that made it, with all its hardships and problems and tragedies, a wonderful thing full of joy and happiness and free of care. Pygmies, like the Inuit, minimize discrimination based upon sex and age differences. Adults of all genders make communal decisions at public assemblies. The Mbuti people do not have a state, or chiefs or councils.” ref

“Hadza people”

“The Hadza people of Tanzania in East Africa are egalitarian, meaning there are no real status differences between individuals. While the elderly receive slightly more respect, within groups of age and sex all individuals are equal, and compared to strictly stratified societies, women are considered fairly equal. This egalitarianism results in high levels of freedom and self-dependency. When conflict does arise, it may be resolved by one of the parties voluntarily moving to another camp. Ernst Fehr and Urs Fischbacher point out that the Hadza people “exhibit a considerable amount of altruistic punishment” to organize these tribes. The Hadza people live in a communal setting and engage in cooperative child-rearing, where many individuals (both related and unrelated) provide high-quality care for children. Having no tribal or governing hierarchy, the Hadza people trace descent bilaterally (through paternal and maternal lines), and almost all Hadza people can trace some kin tie to all other Hadza people.” ref

Faith is a self-indulgence of unjustified belief, if others think faith is good for them, it is their choice, but I just disagree that faith is valuable and strive to not think on faith. I believe people own themselves and thus are free to self-define as they wish. I address ideas, not people.

Damien Marie AtHope’s Art


Animism: Respecting the Living World by Graham Harvey 

“How have human cultures engaged with and thought about animals, plants, rocks, clouds, and other elements in their natural surroundings? Do animals and other natural objects have a spirit or soul? What is their relationship to humans? In this new study, Graham Harvey explores current and past animistic beliefs and practices of Native Americans, Maori, Aboriginal Australians, and eco-pagans. He considers the varieties of animism found in these cultures as well as their shared desire to live respectfully within larger natural communities. Drawing on his extensive casework, Harvey also considers the linguistic, performative, ecological, and activist implications of these different animisms.” ref

My thoughts on Religion Evolution with external links for more info:

“Religion is an Evolved Product” and Yes, Religion is Like Fear Given Wings…

Atheists talk about gods and religions for the same reason doctors talk about cancer, they are looking for a cure, or a firefighter talks about fires because they burn people and they care to stop them. We atheists too often feel a need to help the victims of mental slavery, held in the bondage that is the false beliefs of gods and the conspiracy theories of reality found in religions.

“Understanding Religion Evolution: Animism, Totemism, Shamanism, Paganism & Progressed organized religion”

Understanding Religion Evolution:

“An Archaeological/Anthropological Understanding of Religion Evolution”

It seems ancient peoples had to survived amazing threats in a “dangerous universe (by superstition perceived as good and evil),” and human “immorality or imperfection of the soul” which was thought to affect the still living, leading to ancestor worship. This ancestor worship presumably led to the belief in supernatural beings, and then some of these were turned into the belief in gods. This feeble myth called gods were just a human conceived “made from nothing into something over and over, changing, again and again, taking on more as they evolve, all the while they are thought to be special,” but it is just supernatural animistic spirit-belief perceived as sacred.


Quick Evolution of Religion?

Pre-Animism (at least 300,000 years ago) pre-religion is a beginning that evolves into later Animism. So, Religion as we think of it, to me, all starts in a general way with Animism (Africa: 100,000 years ago) (theoretical belief in supernatural powers/spirits), then this is physically expressed in or with Totemism (Europe: 50,000 years ago) (theoretical belief in mythical relationship with powers/spirits through a totem item), which then enlists a full-time specific person to do this worship and believed interacting Shamanism (Siberia/Russia: 30,000 years ago) (theoretical belief in access and influence with spirits through ritual), and then there is the further employment of myths and gods added to all the above giving you Paganism (Turkey: 12,000 years ago) (often a lot more nature-based than most current top world religions, thus hinting to their close link to more ancient religious thinking it stems from). My hypothesis is expressed with an explanation of the building of a theatrical house (modern religions development). Progressed organized religion (Egypt: 5,000 years ago)  with CURRENT “World” RELIGIONS (after 4,000 years ago).

Historically, in large city-state societies (such as Egypt or Iraq) starting around 5,000 years ago culminated to make religion something kind of new, a sociocultural-governmental-religious monarchy, where all or at least many of the people of such large city-state societies seem familiar with and committed to the existence of “religion” as the integrated life identity package of control dynamics with a fixed closed magical doctrine, but this juggernaut integrated religion identity package of Dogmatic-Propaganda certainly did not exist or if developed to an extent it was highly limited in most smaller prehistoric societies as they seem to lack most of the strong control dynamics with a fixed closed magical doctrine (magical beliefs could be at times be added or removed). Many people just want to see developed religious dynamics everywhere even if it is not. Instead, all that is found is largely fragments until the domestication of religion.

Religions, as we think of them today, are a new fad, even if they go back to around 6,000 years in the timeline of human existence, this amounts to almost nothing when seen in the long slow evolution of religion at least around 70,000 years ago with one of the oldest ritual worship. Stone Snake of South Africa: “first human worship” 70,000 years ago. This message of how religion and gods among them are clearly a man-made thing that was developed slowly as it was invented and then implemented peace by peace discrediting them all. Which seems to be a simple point some are just not grasping how devastating to any claims of truth when we can see the lie clearly in the archeological sites.

I wish people fought as hard for the actual values as they fight for the group/clan names political or otherwise they think support values. Every amount spent on war is theft to children in need of food or the homeless kept from shelter.

Here are several of my blog posts on history:

I am not an academic. I am a revolutionary that teaches in public, in places like social media, and in the streets. I am not a leader by some title given but from my commanding leadership style of simply to start teaching everywhere to everyone, all manner of positive education. 

Damien Marie AtHope’s Art

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Damien Marie AtHope’s Art

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Low Gods “Earth” or Tutelary deity and High Gods “Sky” or Supreme deity

“An Earth goddess is a deification of the Earth. Earth goddesses are often associated with the “chthonic” deities of the underworldKi and Ninhursag are Mesopotamian earth goddesses. In Greek mythology, the Earth is personified as Gaia, corresponding to Roman Terra, Indic Prithvi/Bhūmi, etc. traced to an “Earth Mother” complementary to the “Sky Father” in Proto-Indo-European religionEgyptian mythology exceptionally has a sky goddess and an Earth god.” ref

“A mother goddess is a goddess who represents or is a personification of naturemotherhoodfertilitycreationdestruction or who embodies the bounty of the Earth. When equated with the Earth or the natural world, such goddesses are sometimes referred to as Mother Earth or as the Earth Mother. In some religious traditions or movements, Heavenly Mother (also referred to as Mother in Heaven or Sky Mother) is the wife or feminine counterpart of the Sky father or God the Father.” ref

Any masculine sky god is often also king of the gods, taking the position of patriarch within a pantheon. Such king gods are collectively categorized as “sky father” deities, with a polarity between sky and earth often being expressed by pairing a “sky father” god with an “earth mother” goddess (pairings of a sky mother with an earth father are less frequent). A main sky goddess is often the queen of the gods and may be an air/sky goddess in her own right, though she usually has other functions as well with “sky” not being her main. In antiquity, several sky goddesses in ancient Egypt, Mesopotamia, and the Near East were called Queen of Heaven. Neopagans often apply it with impunity to sky goddesses from other regions who were never associated with the term historically. The sky often has important religious significance. Many religions, both polytheistic and monotheistic, have deities associated with the sky.” ref

“In comparative mythology, sky father is a term for a recurring concept in polytheistic religions of a sky god who is addressed as a “father”, often the father of a pantheon and is often either a reigning or former King of the Gods. The concept of “sky father” may also be taken to include Sun gods with similar characteristics, such as Ra. The concept is complementary to an “earth mother“. “Sky Father” is a direct translation of the Vedic Dyaus Pita, etymologically descended from the same Proto-Indo-European deity name as the Greek Zeûs Pater and Roman Jupiter and Germanic Týr, Tir or Tiwaz, all of which are reflexes of the same Proto-Indo-European deity’s name, *Dyēus Ph₂tḗr. While there are numerous parallels adduced from outside of Indo-European mythology, there are exceptions (e.g. In Egyptian mythology, Nut is the sky mother and Geb is the earth father).” ref

Tutelary deity

“A tutelary (also tutelar) is a deity or spirit who is a guardian, patron, or protector of a particular place, geographic feature, person, lineage, nation, culture, or occupation. The etymology of “tutelary” expresses the concept of safety and thus of guardianship. In late Greek and Roman religion, one type of tutelary deity, the genius, functions as the personal deity or daimon of an individual from birth to death. Another form of personal tutelary spirit is the familiar spirit of European folklore.” ref

“A tutelary (also tutelar) iKorean shamanismjangseung and sotdae were placed at the edge of villages to frighten off demons. They were also worshiped as deities. Seonangshin is the patron deity of the village in Korean tradition and was believed to embody the SeonangdangIn Philippine animism, Diwata or Lambana are deities or spirits that inhabit sacred places like mountains and mounds and serve as guardians. Such as: Maria Makiling is the deity who guards Mt. Makiling and Maria Cacao and Maria Sinukuan. In Shinto, the spirits, or kami, which give life to human bodies come from nature and return to it after death. Ancestors are therefore themselves tutelaries to be worshiped. And similarly, Native American beliefs such as Tonás, tutelary animal spirit among the Zapotec and Totems, familial or clan spirits among the Ojibwe, can be animals.” ref

“A tutelary (also tutelar) in Austronesian beliefs such as: Atua (gods and spirits of the Polynesian peoples such as the Māori or the Hawaiians), Hanitu (Bunun of Taiwan‘s term for spirit), Hyang (KawiSundaneseJavanese, and Balinese Supreme Being, in ancient Java and Bali mythology and this spiritual entity, can be either divine or ancestral), Kaitiaki (New Zealand Māori term used for the concept of guardianship, for the sky, the sea, and the land), Kawas (mythology) (divided into 6 groups: gods, ancestors, souls of the living, spirits of living things, spirits of lifeless objects, and ghosts), Tiki (Māori mythologyTiki is the first man created by either Tūmatauenga or Tāne and represents deified ancestors found in most Polynesian cultures). ” ref, ref, ref, ref, ref, ref, ref

Mesopotamian Tutelary Deities can be seen as ones related to City-States 

“Historical city-states included Sumerian cities such as Uruk and UrAncient Egyptian city-states, such as Thebes and Memphis; the Phoenician cities (such as Tyre and Sidon); the five Philistine city-states; the Berber city-states of the Garamantes; the city-states of ancient Greece (the poleis such as AthensSpartaThebes, and Corinth); the Roman Republic (which grew from a city-state into a vast empire); the Italian city-states from the Middle Ages to the early modern period, such as FlorenceSienaFerraraMilan (which as they grew in power began to dominate neighboring cities) and Genoa and Venice, which became powerful thalassocracies; the Mayan and other cultures of pre-Columbian Mesoamerica (including cities such as Chichen ItzaTikalCopán and Monte Albán); the central Asian cities along the Silk Road; the city-states of the Swahili coastRagusa; states of the medieval Russian lands such as Novgorod and Pskov; and many others.” ref

“The Uruk period (ca. 4000 to 3100 BCE; also known as Protoliterate period) of Mesopotamia, named after the Sumerian city of Uruk, this period saw the emergence of urban life in Mesopotamia and the Sumerian civilization. City-States like Uruk and others had a patron tutelary City Deity along with a Priest-King.” ref

Chinese folk religion, both past, and present, includes myriad tutelary deities. Exceptional individuals, highly cultivated sages, and prominent ancestors can be deified and honored after death. Lord Guan is the patron of military personnel and police, while Mazu is the patron of fishermen and sailors. Such as Tu Di Gong (Earth Deity) is the tutelary deity of a locality, and each individual locality has its own Earth Deity and Cheng Huang Gong (City God) is the guardian deity of an individual city, worshipped by local officials and locals since imperial times.” ref

“A tutelary (also tutelar) in Hinduism, personal tutelary deities are known as ishta-devata, while family tutelary deities are known as Kuladevata. Gramadevata are guardian deities of villages. Devas can also be seen as tutelary. Shiva is the patron of yogis and renunciants. City goddesses include: Mumbadevi (Mumbai), Sachchika (Osian); Kuladevis include: Ambika (Porwad), and Mahalakshmi. In NorthEast India Meitei mythology and religion (Sanamahism) of Manipur, there are various types of tutelary deities, among which Lam Lais are the most predominant ones. Tibetan Buddhism has Yidam as a tutelary deity. Dakini is the patron of those who seek knowledge.” ref

“A tutelary (also tutelar) The Greeks also thought deities guarded specific places: for instance, Athena was the patron goddess of the city of Athens. Socrates spoke of hearing the voice of his personal spirit or daimonion:

You have often heard me speak of an oracle or sign which comes to me … . This sign I have had ever since I was a child. The sign is a voice which comes to me and always forbids me to do something which I am going to do, but never commands me to do anything, and this is what stands in the way of my being a politician.” ref

“Tutelary deities who guard and preserve a place or a person are fundamental to ancient Roman religion. The tutelary deity of a man was his Genius, that of a woman her Juno. In the Imperial era, the Genius of the Emperor was a focus of Imperial cult. An emperor might also adopt a major deity as his personal patron or tutelary, as Augustus did Apollo. Precedents for claiming the personal protection of a deity were established in the Republican era, when for instance the Roman dictator Sulla advertised the goddess Victory as his tutelary by holding public games (ludi) in her honor.” ref

“Each town or city had one or more tutelary deities, whose protection was considered particularly vital in time of war and siege. Rome itself was protected by a goddess whose name was to be kept ritually secret on pain of death (for a supposed case, see Quintus Valerius Soranus). The Capitoline Triad of Juno, Jupiter, and Minerva were also tutelaries of Rome. The Italic towns had their own tutelary deities. Juno often had this function, as at the Latin town of Lanuvium and the Etruscan city of Veii, and was often housed in an especially grand temple on the arx (citadel) or other prominent or central location. The tutelary deity of Praeneste was Fortuna, whose oracle was renowned.” ref

“The Roman ritual of evocatio was premised on the belief that a town could be made vulnerable to military defeat if the power of its tutelary deity were diverted outside the city, perhaps by the offer of superior cult at Rome. The depiction of some goddesses such as the Magna Mater (Great Mother, or Cybele) as “tower-crowned” represents their capacity to preserve the city. A town in the provinces might adopt a deity from within the Roman religious sphere to serve as its guardian, or syncretize its own tutelary with such; for instance, a community within the civitas of the Remi in Gaul adopted Apollo as its tutelary, and at the capital of the Remi (present-day Rheims), the tutelary was Mars Camulus.” ref 

Household deity (a kind of or related to a Tutelary deity)

“A household deity is a deity or spirit that protects the home, looking after the entire household or certain key members. It has been a common belief in paganism as well as in folklore across many parts of the world. Household deities fit into two types; firstly, a specific deity – typically a goddess – often referred to as a hearth goddess or domestic goddess who is associated with the home and hearth, such as the ancient Greek Hestia.” ref

“The second type of household deities are those that are not one singular deity, but a type, or species of animistic deity, who usually have lesser powers than major deities. This type was common in the religions of antiquity, such as the Lares of ancient Roman religion, the Gashin of Korean shamanism, and Cofgodas of Anglo-Saxon paganism. These survived Christianisation as fairy-like creatures existing in folklore, such as the Anglo-Scottish Brownie and Slavic Domovoy.” ref

“Household deities were usually worshipped not in temples but in the home, where they would be represented by small idols (such as the teraphim of the Bible, often translated as “household gods” in Genesis 31:19 for example), amulets, paintings, or reliefs. They could also be found on domestic objects, such as cosmetic articles in the case of Tawaret. The more prosperous houses might have a small shrine to the household god(s); the lararium served this purpose in the case of the Romans. The gods would be treated as members of the family and invited to join in meals, or be given offerings of food and drink.” ref

“In many religions, both ancient and modern, a god would preside over the home. Certain species, or types, of household deities, existed. An example of this was the Roman Lares. Many European cultures retained house spirits into the modern period. Some examples of these include:

“Although the cosmic status of household deities was not as lofty as that of the Twelve Olympians or the Aesir, they were also jealous of their dignity and also had to be appeased with shrines and offerings, however humble. Because of their immediacy they had arguably more influence on the day-to-day affairs of men than the remote gods did. Vestiges of their worship persisted long after Christianity and other major religions extirpated nearly every trace of the major pagan pantheons. Elements of the practice can be seen even today, with Christian accretions, where statues to various saints (such as St. Francis) protect gardens and grottos. Even the gargoyles found on older churches, could be viewed as guardians partitioning a sacred space.” ref

“For centuries, Christianity fought a mop-up war against these lingering minor pagan deities, but they proved tenacious. For example, Martin Luther‘s Tischreden have numerous – quite serious – references to dealing with kobolds. Eventually, rationalism and the Industrial Revolution threatened to erase most of these minor deities, until the advent of romantic nationalism rehabilitated them and embellished them into objects of literary curiosity in the 19th century. Since the 20th century this literature has been mined for characters for role-playing games, video games, and other fantasy personae, not infrequently invested with invented traits and hierarchies somewhat different from their mythological and folkloric roots.” ref

“In contradistinction to both Herbert Spencer and Edward Burnett Tylor, who defended theories of animistic origins of ancestor worship, Émile Durkheim saw its origin in totemism. In reality, this distinction is somewhat academic, since totemism may be regarded as a particularized manifestation of animism, and something of a synthesis of the two positions was attempted by Sigmund Freud. In Freud’s Totem and Taboo, both totem and taboo are outward expressions or manifestations of the same psychological tendency, a concept which is complementary to, or which rather reconciles, the apparent conflict. Freud preferred to emphasize the psychoanalytic implications of the reification of metaphysical forces, but with particular emphasis on its familial nature. This emphasis underscores, rather than weakens, the ancestral component.” ref

William Edward Hearn, a noted classicist, and jurist, traced the origin of domestic deities from the earliest stages as an expression of animism, a belief system thought to have existed also in the neolithic, and the forerunner of Indo-European religion. In his analysis of the Indo-European household, in Chapter II “The House Spirit”, Section 1, he states:

The belief which guided the conduct of our forefathers was … the spirit rule of dead ancestors.” ref

“In Section 2 he proceeds to elaborate:

It is thus certain that the worship of deceased ancestors is a vera causa, and not a mere hypothesis. …

In the other European nations, the Slavs, the Teutons, and the Kelts, the House Spirit appears with no less distinctness. … [T]he existence of that worship does not admit of doubt. … The House Spirits had a multitude of other names which it is needless here to enumerate, but all of which are more or less expressive of their friendly relations with man. … In [England] … [h]e is the Brownie. … In Scotland this same Brownie is well known. He is usually described as attached to particular families, with whom he has been known to reside for centuries, threshing the corn, cleaning the house, and performing similar household tasks. His favorite gratification was milk and honey.” ref

Damien Marie AtHope’s Art


“These ideas are my speculations from the evidence.”

I am still researching the “god‘s origins” all over the world. So you know, it is very complicated but I am smart and willing to look, DEEP, if necessary, which going very deep does seem to be needed here, when trying to actually understand the evolution of gods and goddesses. I am sure of a few things and less sure of others, but even in stuff I am not fully grasping I still am slowly figuring it out, to explain it to others. But as I research more I am understanding things a little better, though I am still working on understanding it all or something close and thus always figuring out more. 

Sky Father/Sky God?

“Egyptian: (Nut) Sky Mother and (Geb) Earth Father” (Egypt is different but similar)

Turkic/Mongolic: (Tengri/Tenger Etseg) Sky Father and (Eje/Gazar Eej) Earth Mother *Transeurasian*

Hawaiian: (Wākea) Sky Father and (Papahānaumoku) Earth Mother *Austronesian*

New Zealand/ Māori: (Ranginui) Sky Father and (Papatūānuku) Earth Mother *Austronesian*

Proto-Indo-European: (Dyus/Dyus phtr) Sky Father and (Dʰéǵʰōm/Plethwih) Earth Mother

Indo-Aryan: (Dyaus Pita) Sky Father and (Prithvi Mata) Earth Mother *Indo-European*

Italic: (Jupiter) Sky Father and (Juno) Sky Mother *Indo-European*

Etruscan: (Tinia) Sky Father and (Uni) Sky Mother *Tyrsenian/Italy Pre–Indo-European*

Hellenic/Greek: (Zeus) Sky Father and (Hera) Sky Mother who started as an “Earth Goddess” *Indo-European*

Nordic: (Dagr) Sky Father and (Nótt) Sky Mother *Indo-European*

Slavic: (Perun) Sky Father and (Mokosh) Earth Mother *Indo-European*

Illyrian: (Deipaturos) Sky Father and (Messapic Damatura’s “earth-mother” maybe) Earth Mother *Indo-European*

Albanian: (Zojz) Sky Father and (?) *Indo-European*

Baltic: (Perkūnas) Sky Father and (Saulė) Sky Mother *Indo-European*

Germanic: (Týr) Sky Father and (?) *Indo-European*

Colombian-Muisca: (Bochica) Sky Father and (Huythaca) Sky Mother *Chibchan*

Aztec: (Quetzalcoatl) Sky Father and (Xochiquetzal) Sky Mother *Uto-Aztecan*

Incan: (Viracocha) Sky Father and (Mama Runtucaya) Sky Mother *Quechuan*

China: (Tian/Shangdi) Sky Father and (Dì) Earth Mother *Sino-Tibetan*

Sumerian, Assyrian and Babylonian: (An/Anu) Sky Father and (Ki) Earth Mother

Finnish: (Ukko) Sky Father and (Akka) Earth Mother *Finno-Ugric*

Sami: (Horagalles) Sky Father and (Ravdna) Earth Mother *Finno-Ugric*

Puebloan-Zuni: (Ápoyan Ta’chu) Sky Father and (Áwitelin Tsíta) Earth Mother

Puebloan-Hopi: (Tawa) Sky Father and (Kokyangwuti/Spider Woman/Grandmother) Earth Mother *Uto-Aztecan*

Puebloan-Navajo: (Tsohanoai) Sky Father and (Estsanatlehi) Earth Mother *Na-Dene*



Sky Father/Sky Mother “High Gods” or similar gods/goddesses of the sky more loosely connected, seeming arcane mythology across the earth seen in Siberia, China, Europe, Native Americans/First Nations People and Mesopotamia, etc.

Damien Marie AtHope’s Art

ref, ref

Hinduism around 3,700 to 3,500 years old. ref

 Judaism around 3,450 or 3,250 years old. (The first writing in the bible was “Paleo-Hebrew” dated to around 3,000 years ago Khirbet Qeiyafa is the site of an ancient fortress city overlooking the Elah Valley. And many believe the religious Jewish texts were completed around 2,500) ref, ref

Judaism is around 3,450 or 3,250 years old. (“Paleo-Hebrew” 3,000 years ago and Torah 2,500 years ago)

“Judaism is an Abrahamic, its roots as an organized religion in the Middle East during the Bronze Age. Some scholars argue that modern Judaism evolved from Yahwism, the religion of ancient Israel and Judah, by the late 6th century BCE, and is thus considered to be one of the oldest monotheistic religions.” ref

“Yahwism is the name given by modern scholars to the religion of ancient Israel, essentially polytheistic, with a plethora of gods and goddesses. Heading the pantheon was Yahweh, the national god of the Israelite kingdoms of Israel and Judah, with his consort, the goddess Asherah; below them were second-tier gods and goddesses such as Baal, Shamash, Yarikh, Mot, and Astarte, all of whom had their own priests and prophets and numbered royalty among their devotees, and a third and fourth tier of minor divine beings, including the mal’ak, the messengers of the higher gods, who in later times became the angels of Judaism, Christianity and Islam. Yahweh, however, was not the ‘original’ god of Israel “Isra-El”; it is El, the head of the Canaanite pantheon, whose name forms the basis of the name “Israel”, and none of the Old Testament patriarchs, the tribes of Israel, the Judges, or the earliest monarchs, have a Yahwistic theophoric name (i.e., one incorporating the name of Yahweh).” ref

“El is a Northwest Semitic word meaning “god” or “deity“, or referring (as a proper name) to any one of multiple major ancient Near Eastern deities. A rarer form, ‘ila, represents the predicate form in Old Akkadian and in Amorite. The word is derived from the Proto-Semitic *ʔil-, meaning “god”. Specific deities known as ‘El or ‘Il include the supreme god of the ancient Canaanite religion and the supreme god of East Semitic speakers in Mesopotamia’s Early Dynastic Period. ʼĒl is listed at the head of many pantheons. In some Canaanite and Ugaritic sources, ʼĒl played a role as father of the gods, of creation, or both. For example, in the Ugaritic texts, ʾil mlk is understood to mean “ʼĒl the King” but ʾil hd as “the god Hadad“. The Semitic root ʾlh (Arabic ʾilāh, Aramaic ʾAlāh, ʾElāh, Hebrew ʾelōah) may be ʾl with a parasitic h, and ʾl may be an abbreviated form of ʾlh. In Ugaritic the plural form meaning “gods” is ʾilhm, equivalent to Hebrew ʾelōhîm “powers”. In the Hebrew texts this word is interpreted as being semantically singular for “god” by biblical commentators. However the documentary hypothesis for the Old Testament (corresponds to the Jewish Torah) developed originally in the 1870s, identifies these that different authors – the Jahwist, Elohist, Deuteronomist, and the Priestly source – were responsible for editing stories from a polytheistic religion into those of a monotheistic religion. Inconsistencies that arise between monotheism and polytheism in the texts are reflective of this hypothesis.” ref


Jainism around 2,599 – 2,527 years old. ref

Confucianism around 2,600 – 2,551 years old. ref

Buddhism around 2,563/2,480 – 2,483/2,400 years old. ref

Christianity around 2,o00 years old. ref

Shinto around 1,305 years old. ref

Islam around 1407–1385 years old. ref

Sikhism around 548–478 years old. ref

Bahá’í around 200–125 years old. ref

Knowledge to Ponder: 


  • Possibly, around 30,000 years ago (in simpler form) to 6,000 years ago, Stars/Astrology are connected to Ancestors, Spirit Animals, and Deities.
  • The star also seems to be a possible proto-star for Star of Ishtar, Star of Inanna, or Star of Venus.
  • Around 7,000 to 6,000 years ago, Star Constellations/Astrology have connections to the “Kurgan phenomenon” of below-ground “mound” stone/wood burial structures and “Dolmen phenomenon” of above-ground stone burial structures.
  • Around 6,500–5,800 years ago, The Northern Levant migrations into Jordon and Israel in the Southern Levant brought new cultural and religious transfer from Turkey and Iran.
  • “The Ghassulian Star,” a mysterious 6,000-year-old mural from Jordan may have connections to the European paganstic kurgan/dolmens phenomenon.

“Astrology is a range of divinatory practices, recognized as pseudoscientific since the 18th century, that claim to discern information about human affairs and terrestrial events by studying the apparent positions of celestial objects. Different cultures have employed forms of astrology since at least the 2nd millennium BCE, these practices having originated in calendrical systems used to predict seasonal shifts and to interpret celestial cycles as signs of divine communications. Most, if not all, cultures have attached importance to what they observed in the sky, and some—such as the HindusChinese, and the Maya—developed elaborate systems for predicting terrestrial events from celestial observations. Western astrology, one of the oldest astrological systems still in use, can trace its roots to 19th–17th century BCE Mesopotamia, from where it spread to Ancient GreeceRome, the Islamicate world and eventually Central and Western Europe. Contemporary Western astrology is often associated with systems of horoscopes that purport to explain aspects of a person’s personality and predict significant events in their lives based on the positions of celestial objects; the majority of professional astrologers rely on such systems.” ref 

Around 5,500 years ago, Science evolves, The first evidence of science was 5,500 years ago and was demonstrated by a body of empirical, theoretical, and practical knowledge about the natural world. ref

Around 5,000 years ago, Origin of Logics is a Naturalistic Observation (principles of valid reasoning, inference, & demonstration) ref

Around 4,150 to 4,000 years ago: The earliest surviving versions of the Sumerian Epic of Gilgamesh, which was originally titled “He who Saw the Deep” (Sha naqba īmuru) or “Surpassing All Other Kings” (Shūtur eli sharrī) were written. ref


  • 3,700 years ago or so, the oldest of the Hindu Vedas (scriptures), the Rig Veda was composed.
  • 3,500 years ago or so, the Vedic Age began in India after the collapse of the Indus Valley Civilization.


  • around 3,000 years ago, the first writing in the bible was “Paleo-Hebrew”
  • around 2,500 years ago, many believe the religious Jewish texts were completed

Myths: The bible inspired religion is not just one religion or one myth but a grouping of several religions and myths

  • Around 3,450 or 3,250 years ago, according to legend, is the traditionally accepted period in which the Israelite lawgiver, Moses, provided the Ten Commandments.
  • Around 2,500 to 2,400 years ago, a collection of ancient religious writings by the Israelites based primarily upon the Hebrew Bible, Tanakh, or Old Testament is the first part of Christianity’s bible.
  • Around 2,400 years ago, the most accepted hypothesis is that the canon was formed in stages, first the Pentateuch (Torah).
  • Around 2,140 to 2,116 years ago, the Prophets was written during the Hasmonean dynasty, and finally the remaining books.
  • Christians traditionally divide the Old Testament into four sections:
  • The first five books or Pentateuch (Torah).
  • The proposed history books telling the history of the Israelites from their conquest of Canaan to their defeat and exile in Babylon.
  • The poetic and proposed “Wisdom books” dealing, in various forms, with questions of good and evil in the world.
  • The books of the biblical prophets, warning of the consequences of turning away from God:
  • Henotheism:
  • Exodus 20:23 “You shall not make other gods besides Me (not saying there are no other gods just not to worship them); gods of silver or gods of gold, you shall not make for yourselves.”
  • Polytheism:
  • Judges 10:6 “Then the sons of Israel again did evil in the sight of the LORD, served the Baals and the Ashtaroth, the gods of Aram, the gods of Sidon, the gods of Moab, the gods of the sons of Ammon, and the gods of the Philistines; thus they forsook the LORD and did not serve Him.”
  • 1 Corinthians 8:5 “For even if there are so-called gods whether in heaven or on earth, as indeed there are many gods and many lords.”
  • Monotheism:
  • Isaiah 43:10 “You are my witnesses,” declares the LORD, “and my servant whom I have chosen, so that you may know and believe me and understand that I am he. Before me no god was formed, nor will there be one after me.

Around 2,570 to 2,270 Years Ago, there is a confirmation of atheistic doubting as well as atheistic thinking, mainly by Greek philosophers. However, doubting gods is likely as old as the invention of gods and should destroy the thinking that belief in god(s) is the “default belief”. The Greek word is apistos (a “not” and pistos “faithful,”), thus not faithful or faithless because one is unpersuaded and unconvinced by a god(s) claim. Short Definition: unbelieving, unbeliever, or unbelief.

Damien Marie AtHope’s Art

Expressions of Atheistic Thinking:

  • Around 2,600 years ago, Ajita Kesakambali, ancient Indian philosopher, who is the first known proponent of Indian materialism. ref
  • Around 2,535 to 2,475 years ago, Heraclitus, Greek pre-Socratic philosopher, a native of the Greek city Ephesus, Ionia, on the coast of Anatolia, also known as Asia Minor or modern Turkey. ref
  • Around 2,500 to 2,400 years ago, according to The Story of Civilization book series certain African pygmy tribes have no identifiable gods, spirits, or religious beliefs or rituals, and even what burials accrue are without ceremony. ref
  • Around 2,490 to 2,430 years ago, Empedocles, Greek pre-Socratic philosopher and a citizen of Agrigentum, a Greek city in Sicily. ref
  • Around 2,460 to 2,370 years ago, Democritus, Greek pre-Socratic philosopher considered to be the “father of modern science” possibly had some disbelief amounting to atheism. ref
  • Around 2,399 years ago or so, Socrates, a famous Greek philosopher was tried for sinfulness by teaching doubt of state gods. ref
  • Around 2,341 to 2,270 years ago, Epicurus, a Greek philosopher known for composing atheistic critics and famously stated, “Is God willing to prevent evil, but not able? Then he is not omnipotent. Is he able, but not willing? Then he is malevolent. Is he both able and willing? Then whence cometh evil? Is he neither able nor willing? Then why call him god?” ref

This last expression by Epicurus, seems to be an expression of Axiological Atheism. To understand and utilize value or actually possess “Value Conscious/Consciousness” to both give a strong moral “axiological” argument (the problem of evil) as well as use it to fortify humanism and positive ethical persuasion of human helping and care responsibilities. Because value-blindness gives rise to sociopathic/psychopathic evil.

Damien Marie AtHope’s Art

While hallucinogens are associated with shamanism, it is alcohol that is associated with paganism.

The Atheist-Humanist-Leftist Revolutionaries Shows in the prehistory series:

Show one: Prehistory: related to “Anarchism and Socialism” the division of labor, power, rights, and recourses.

Show two: Pre-animism 300,000 years old and animism 100,000 years old: related to “Anarchism and Socialism”

Show tree: Totemism 50,000 years old: related to “Anarchism and Socialism”

Show four: Shamanism 30,000 years old: related to “Anarchism and Socialism”

Show five: Paganism 12,000 years old: related to “Anarchism and Socialism”

Show six: Emergence of hierarchy, sexism, slavery, and the new male god dominance: Paganism 7,000-5,000 years old: related to “Anarchism and Socialism” (Capitalism) (World War 0) Elite and their slaves!

Show seven: Paganism 5,000 years old: progressed organized religion and the state: related to “Anarchism and Socialism” (Kings and the Rise of the State)

Show eight: Paganism 4,000 years old: Moralistic gods after the rise of Statism and often support Statism/Kings: related to “Anarchism and Socialism” (First Moralistic gods, then the Origin time of Monotheism)

Prehistory: related to “Anarchism and Socialism” the division of labor, power, rights, and recourses: VIDEO

Pre-animism 300,000 years old and animism 100,000 years old: related to “Anarchism and Socialism”: VIDEO

Totemism 50,000 years old: related to “Anarchism and Socialism”: VIDEO

Shamanism 30,000 years old: related to “Anarchism and Socialism”: VIDEO

Paganism 12,000 years old: related to “Anarchism and Socialism” (Pre-Capitalism): VIDEO

Paganism 7,000-5,000 years old: related to “Anarchism and Socialism” (Capitalism) (World War 0) Elite and their slaves: VIEDO

Paganism 5,000 years old: progressed organized religion and the state: related to “Anarchism and Socialism” (Kings and the Rise of the State): VIEDO

Paganism 4,000 years old: related to “Anarchism and Socialism” (First Moralistic gods, then the Origin time of Monotheism): VIEDO

I do not hate simply because I challenge and expose myths or lies any more than others being thought of as loving simply because of the protection and hiding from challenge their favored myths or lies.

The truth is best championed in the sunlight of challenge.

An archaeologist once said to me “Damien religion and culture are very different”

My response, So are you saying that was always that way, such as would you say Native Americans’ cultures are separate from their religions? And do you think it always was the way you believe?

I had said that religion was a cultural product. That is still how I see it and there are other archaeologists that think close to me as well. Gods too are the myths of cultures that did not understand science or the world around them, seeing magic/supernatural everywhere.

I personally think there is a goddess and not enough evidence to support a male god at Çatalhöyük but if there was both a male and female god and goddess then I know the kind of gods they were like Proto-Indo-European mythology.

This series idea was addressed in, Anarchist Teaching as Free Public Education or Free Education in the Public: VIDEO

Our 12 video series: Organized Oppression: Mesopotamian State Force and the Politics of power (9,000-4,000 years ago), is adapted from: The Complete and Concise History of the Sumerians and Early Bronze Age Mesopotamia (7000-2000 BC): by “History with Cy

Show #1: Mesopotamian State Force and the Politics of Power (Samarra, Halaf, Ubaid)

Show #2: Mesopotamian State Force and the Politics of Power (Eridu: First City of Power)

Show #3: Mesopotamian State Force and the Politics of Power (Uruk and the First Cities)

Show #4: Mesopotamian State Force and the Politics of Power (First Kings)

Show #5: Mesopotamian State Force and the Politics of Power (Early Dynastic Period)

Show #6: Mesopotamian State Force and the Politics of Power (King Lugalzagesi and the First Empire)

Show #7: Mesopotamian State Force and the Politics of Power (Sargon and Akkadian Rule)

Show #8: Mesopotamian State Force and the Politics of Power (Naram-Sin, Post-Akkadian Rule, and the Gutians)

Show #9: Mesopotamian State Force and the Politics of Power (Gudea of Lagash and Utu-hegal)

Show #10: Mesopotamian State Force and the Politics of Power (Third Dynasty of Ur / Neo-Sumerian Empire)

Show #11: Mesopotamian State Force and the Politics of Power (Amorites, Elamites, and the End of an Era)

Show #12: Mesopotamian State Force and the Politics of Power (Aftermath and Legacy of Sumer)

Damien Marie AtHope’s Art

The “Atheist-Humanist-Leftist Revolutionaries”

Cory Johnston ☭ Ⓐ Atheist Leftist @Skepticallefty & I (Damien Marie AtHope) @AthopeMarie (my YouTube & related blog) are working jointly in atheist, antitheist, antireligionist, antifascist, anarchist, socialist, and humanist endeavors in our videos together, generally, every other Saturday.

Why Does Power Bring Responsibility?

Think, how often is it the powerless that start wars, oppress others, or commit genocide? So, I guess the question is to us all, to ask, how can power not carry responsibility in a humanity concept? I know I see the deep ethical responsibility that if there is power their must be a humanistic responsibility of ethical and empathic stewardship of that power. Will I be brave enough to be kind? Will I possess enough courage to be compassionate? Will my valor reach its height of empathy? I as everyone, earns our justified respect by our actions, that are good, ethical, just, protecting, and kind. Do I have enough self-respect to put my love for humanity’s flushing, over being brought down by some of its bad actors? May we all be the ones doing good actions in the world, to help human flourishing.

I create the world I want to live in, striving for flourishing. Which is not a place but a positive potential involvement and promotion; a life of humanist goal precision. To master oneself, also means mastering positive prosocial behaviors needed for human flourishing. I may have lost a god myth as an atheist, but I am happy to tell you, my friend, it is exactly because of that, leaving the mental terrorizer, god belief, that I truly regained my connected ethical as well as kind humanity.

Cory and I will talk about prehistory and theism, addressing the relevance to atheism, anarchism, and socialism.

At the same time as the rise of the male god, 7,000 years ago, there was also the very time there was the rise of violence, war, and clans to kingdoms, then empires, then states. It is all connected back to 7,000 years ago, and it moved across the world.

Cory Johnston:  

The Mind of a Skeptical Leftist (YouTube)

Cory Johnston: Mind of a Skeptical Leftist @Skepticallefty

The Mind of a Skeptical Leftist By Cory Johnston: “Promoting critical thinking, social justice, and left-wing politics by covering current events and talking to a variety of people. Cory Johnston has been thoughtfully talking to people and attempting to promote critical thinking, social justice, and left-wing politics.”

Cory needs our support. We rise by helping each other.

Cory Johnston ☭ Ⓐ @Skepticallefty Evidence-based atheist leftist (he/him) Producer, host, and co-host of 4 podcasts @skeptarchy @skpoliticspod and @AthopeMarie

Damien Marie AtHope (“At Hope”) Axiological Atheist, Anti-theist, Anti-religionist, Secular Humanist. Rationalist, Writer, Artist, Poet, Philosopher, Advocate, Activist, Psychology, and Armchair Archaeology/Anthropology/Historian.

Damien is interested in: Freedom, Liberty, Justice, Equality, Ethics, Humanism, Science, Atheism, Antiteism, Antireligionism, Ignosticism, Left-Libertarianism, Anarchism, Socialism, Mutualism, Axiology, Metaphysics, LGBTQI, Philosophy, Advocacy, Activism, Mental Health, Psychology, Archaeology, Social Work, Sexual Rights, Marriage Rights, Woman’s Rights, Gender Rights, Child Rights, Secular Rights, Race Equality, Ageism/Disability Equality, Etc. And a far-leftist, “Anarcho-Humanist.”

I am not a good fit in the atheist movement that is mostly pro-capitalist, I am anti-capitalist. Mostly pro-skeptic, I am a rationalist not valuing skepticism. Mostly pro-agnostic, I am anti-agnostic. Mostly limited to anti-Abrahamic religions, I am an anti-religionist. 

To me, the “male god” seems to have either emerged or become prominent around 7,000 years ago, whereas the now favored monotheism “male god” is more like 4,000 years ago or so. To me, the “female goddess” seems to have either emerged or become prominent around 11,000-10,000 years ago or so, losing the majority of its once prominence around 2,000 years ago due largely to the now favored monotheism “male god” that grow in prominence after 4,000 years ago or so. 

My Thought on the Evolution of Gods?

Animal protector deities from old totems/spirit animal beliefs come first to me, 13,000/12,000 years ago, then women as deities 11,000/10,000 years ago, then male gods around 7,000/8,000 years ago. Moralistic gods around 5,000/4,000 years ago, and monotheistic gods around 4,000/3,000 years ago. 

“Animism” is needed to begin supernatural thinking.
“Totemism” is needed for supernatural thinking connecting human actions & related to clan/tribe.
“Shamanism” is needed for supernatural thinking to be controllable/changeable by special persons.
Together = Gods/paganism

Damien Marie AtHope’s Art

Damien Marie AtHope (Said as “At” “Hope”)/(Autodidact Polymath but not good at math):

Axiological Atheist, Anti-theist, Anti-religionist, Secular Humanist, Rationalist, Writer, Artist, Jeweler, Poet, “autodidact” Philosopher, schooled in Psychology, and “autodidact” Armchair Archaeology/Anthropology/Pre-Historian (Knowledgeable in the range of: 1 million to 5,000/4,000 years ago). I am an anarchist socialist politically. Reasons for or Types of Atheism

My Website, My Blog, & Short-writing or QuotesMy YouTube, Twitter: @AthopeMarie, and My Email:

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