The Anthropology of Religion, Magic, and Witchcraft: 3rd Edition (Paperback) book cover

The Anthropology of Religion, Magic, and Witchcraft

3rd Edition

By Rebecca L Stein, Philip Stein


288 pages

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Paperback: 9780205718115
pub: 2010-11-29
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This concise introductory textbook emphasizes the major concepts of both anthropology and the anthropology of religion. It is aimed at students encountering anthropology for the first time. Reviewers describe the text as vivid, rich, user-friendly, accessible, and well-organized.

The Anthropology of Religion, Magic, and Witchcraft examines religious expression from a cross-cultural perspective while incorporating key theoretical concepts. In addition to providing a basic overview of anthropology, including definition of key terms and exposure to ethnographies, the text exposes students to the varying complexity of world religions.

Table of Contents

1 The Anthropological Study of Religion 1

The Anthropological Perspective 1

The Holistic Approach

The Study of Human Societies

The Fore of New Guinea: An Ethnographic Example

Two Ways of Viewing Culture

Cultural Relativism

BOX 1.1 • Karen McCarthy Brown and Vodou

The Concept of Culture

The Study of Religion

Attempts at Defining Religion

The Domain of Religion

Theoretical Approaches to the Study of Religion

BOX 1.2 • Malinowski and the Trobriand Islands

BOX 1.3 • Evans-Pritchard and the Azande

The Biological Basis of Religious Behavior



Suggested Readings

Suggested Websites

Study Questions


2 Mythology

The Nature of Myths


Stories of the Supernatural

The Nature of Oral Texts

BOX 2.1 • Genesis

BOX 2.2 • The Gender-Neutral Christian Bible

Understanding Myths

Approaches to Analysis of Myths

BOX 2.3 • The Gururumba Creation Story

Common Themes in Myths

BOX 2.4 • The Navaho Creation Story: Diné Bahanè

BOX 2.5 • The Raven Steals the Light

BOX 2.6 • Joseph Campbell



Suggested Readings

Suggested Websites

Study Questions


3 Religious Symbols

What Is a Symbol?

Religious Symbols

BOX 3.1 • Religious Toys and Games

Sacred Art

The Sarcophagus of Lord Pakal

The Meaning of Color

Sacred Space and Sacred Time

The Meaning of Time

BOX 3.2 • The End of Time

Sacred Time and Space in Australia

The Symbolism of Music and Dance

The Symbolism of Music

The Symbolism of Dance



Suggested Readings

Suggested Websites

Study Questions


4 Ritual

The Basics of Ritual Performance

Prescriptive and Situational Rituals

Periodic and Occasional Rituals

A Classification of Rituals

A Survey of Rituals

Technological Rituals

Social Rites of Intensification

Therapy Rituals and Healing

Salvation Rituals

Revitalization Rituals

Rites of Passage

The Structure of a Rite of Passage

Coming-of-Age Rituals

Alterations of the Human Body


BOX 4.1 • The Hajj

The Huichol Pilgrimage

Religious Obligations


Jewish Food Laws

BOX 4.2 • Menstrual Tabus

Conclusion 1

BOX 4.2 • The Way of the Amish


Suggested Readings

Suggested Websites

Study Questions


5 Altered States of Consciousness

The Nature of Altered States of Consciousness

Entering an Altered State of Consciousness

The Biological Basis of Altered States of Consciousness

BOX 5.1 • Altered States in Upper Paleolithic Art

Drug-Induced Altered States

BOX 5.2 • The Native American Church

Ethnographic Examples of Altered States of Consciousness

The Holiness Churches

San Healing Rituals

The Sun Dance of the Cheyenne

Religious Use of Drugs in South America




Suggested Readings

Suggested Websites

Study Questions


6 Religious Specialists


Defining Shamanism

Siberian Shamanism

Shamanism among the Akimel O’odham

Korean Shamanism

Pentecostal Healers as Shamans


BOX 6.1 • Clown Doctors as Shamans


Aztec Priests

Zuni Priests

Okinawan Priestesses

Eastern Orthodox Priests

Other Specialists

Healers and Diviners

BOX 6.2 • African Healers Meet Western Medicine




Suggested Readings

Suggested Websites

Study Questions


7 Magic and Divination

The World of Magic

Magic and Religion

Magic and Science

Rules of Magic

The Function of Magic

Why Magic Works

Magic in Society

Magic in the Trobriand Islands

BOX 7.1 • Trobriand Island Magic

Magic among the Azande

Sorcery among the Fore

Wiccan Magic


Forms of Divination

Divination Techniques

BOX 7.2 • I Ching: The Book of Changes

Fore Divination

Oracles of the Azande

Divination in Ancient Greece: The Oracle at Delphi




Suggested Readings

Suggested Websites

Study Questions


8 Souls, Ghosts, and Death

Souls and Ancestors

Variation in the Concept of the Soul

Souls, Death, and the Afterlife

BOX 8.1 • How Do You Get to Heaven?

Examples of Concepts of the Soul


BOX 8.2 • Determining Death

Bodies and Souls


The Living Dead: Vampires and Zombies

Death Rituals

Funeral Rituals

Disposal of the Body

U.S Death Rituals in the Nineteenth Century

U.S Funeral Rituals Today

BOX 8.3 • Roadside Memorials

Days of Death



Suggested Readings

Suggested Websites

Study Questions


9 Gods and Spirits


The Dani View of the Supernatural

Guardian Spirits and the Native American Vision Quest


Christian Angels and Demons


BOX 9.1 • Christian Demonic Exorcism in the United States

Types of Gods

Gods and Society

BOX 9.2 • Games and Gods

The Gods of the Yoruba

The Gods of the Ifugao


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




Suggested Readings

Suggested Websites

Study Questions


10 Witchcraft

The Concept of Witchcraft in Small-Scale Societies

Witchcraft among the Azande

Witchcraft among the Navaho

Witchcraft Reflects Human Culture

Sorcery, Witchcraft and AIDS

Euro-American Witchcraft Beliefs

The Connection with Pagan Religions

The Witchcraze in Europe

The Witchcraze in England and the United States

BOX 10.1 • The Evil Eye

BOX 10.2 • Satanism

Modern Day Witch Hunts



Suggested Readings

Suggested Websites

Study Questions


11 The Search for New Meaning

Adaptation and Change

Mechanisms of Culture Change



Haitian Vodou


Revitalization Movements

The Origins of Revitalization Movements

Types of Revitalization Movements

Cargo Cults

BOX 11.1 • The John Frum Cult

The Ghost Dance of 1890

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

Neo-Paganism and Revival

The Wiccan Movement

New Religious Movements

The “Cult” Question

Characteristics of High Demand Religions

Examples of New Religious Movements

UFO Religions


Characteristics of Fundamentalist Groups

BOX 11.2 • Religious Violence and Terrorism



Suggested Readings

Suggested Websites

Study Questions




About the Authors

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

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

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

Subject Categories

BISAC Subject Codes/Headings:
SOCIAL SCIENCE / Anthropology / General
SOCIAL SCIENCE / Anthropology / Cultural