Explain How Shamans Differ From Priests or Any Other Religious Leaders
Although some have challenged his suggestion of the universality of shamanism, the cross-cultural research of Michael Winkelman has established the universal validity of the concept of the shaman, as well as the characteristics of Shamans, particularly their differences with respect to other types of magico-religious practitioners.
He holds the political, social and religious leader roles over the whole tribe, and is often a diviner. “The headman of each Zulu kraal is the chief official of the village and also that person most directly responsible for the performance of the ritual acts expected of all Zulu, especially those that address the ancestors.”Besides solving disputes or making decisions within his kraal, one of the umnumzane’s main roles is contact with the ancestors. He will perform all the rituals and such things to please the ancestors for everyone within his kraal. The ancestors play a huge part in Zulu beliefs and so the role of the umnumzane is very important. The people want to keep the ancestors happy so that they will continue to have good fortune in their lives. According to most African traditional religions, the ancestors do not cause misfortune, but other people do.
Concepts like “heaven,” “hell,” or even “prayer” do not exist in many societies (O. Soffer, J. M. Adovasio, 2000). The divide between “religion” and related ideas like “spirituality” or even “magic” is also murky in some cultural contexts. To study supernatural beliefs, anthropologists must cultivate a perspective of cultural relativism and strive to understand beliefs from an emic or insider’s perspective. Imposing the definitions or assumptions from one culture on another is likely to lead to misunderstandings. One example of this problem can be found in the early anthropological research of Sir James Frazer who attempted to compose the first comprehensive study of the world’s major magical and religious belief systems. Frazer was part of early generation of anthropologists whose work was based on reading and questionnaires mailed to missionaries and colonial officials rather than travel and participant-observation. As a result, he had only minimal information about the beliefs he wrote about and he was quick to apply his own opinions. In The Golden Bough (1890) he dismissed many of the spiritual beliefs he documented: “I look upon [them] not merely as false but as preposterous and absurd.” His contemporary, Sir E.B. Tylor, was less dismissive of unfamiliar belief systems, but he defined religion minimally and, for some, in overly narrow terms as “the belief in supernatural beings.” This definition excludes much of what people around the world actually believe.As researchers gained more information about other cultures, their ideas about religion became more complex. The sociologist Emile Durkheim recognized that religion was not simply a belief in “supernatural beings,” but a set of practices and social institutions that brought members of a community together (Edward B. Tylor, 1871). Religion, he said, was “a unified system of beliefs and practices relative to sacred things, that is to say, things set aside and forbidden—beliefs and practices which unite into one single moral community called a Church, all those who adhere to them.”
If a prophet is successful in convincing enough people that he or she is right, a new religion is usually established. That was the case with Mohamed and the beginning of Islam. Likewise, Joseph Smith's divine revelation and subsequent prophetic teaching in the 1830's and early 1840's led to the creation of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-Day Saints (the Mormons).
Jean Clottes, Cave Art (London: Phaidon, 2010)
O. Soffer, J. M. Adovasio, and D. C. Hyland “The ‘Venus’ Figurines: Textiles, Basketry, Gender, and Status in the Upper Paleolithic” Current Anthropology 41 n. 4 (2000):511-537.
James Frazer, The Golden Bough (New York: Macmillan and Company, 1958),vii.
Edward B. Tylor, Primitive Culture (London: John Murray, 1871).
Emile Durkheim, The Elementary Forms of Religious Life, tr. Joseph R. Swain (London: George Allen and Unwin, 1965),