The Anthropology of Religion, Magic, and Witchcraft: 4th Edition (Paperback) book cover

The Anthropology of Religion, Magic, and Witchcraft

4th Edition

By Rebecca Stein, Philip L. Stein


310 pages

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Paperback: 9781138692527
pub: 2017-05-09
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pub: 2017-05-08
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This concise and accessible textbook introduces students to the anthropological study of religion. Stein and Stein examine religious expression from a cross-cultural perspective and expose students to the varying complexity of world religions. The chapters incorporate key theoretical concepts and a rich range of ethnographic material.

The fourth edition of The Anthropology of Religion, Magic, and Witchcraft offers:

• increased coverage of new religious movements, fundamentalism, and religion and conflict/violence;

• fresh case study material with examples drawn from around the globe;

• further resources via a comprehensive companion website.

This is an essential guide for students encountering anthropology of religion for the first time.

Table of Contents


1. The Anthropological Study of Religion

The Anthropological Perspective

The Holistic Approach

The Study of Human Societies

The Fore of New Guinea: An Ethnographic Example

Two Ways of Viewing Culture

Cultural Relativism

The Concept of Culture

The Study of Religion

Attempts at Defining Religion

The Domain of Religion

Theoretical Approaches to the Study of Religion


Suggested Readings and Websites

Study Questions

2. Mythology

The Nature of Myths


Stories of the Supernatural

The Nature of Oral Texts

Understanding Myths

Approaches to Analysis of Myths

Common Themes in Myths


Suggested Reading and Websites

Study Questions

3. Religions Symbols

What Is a Symbol?

Religious Symbols

Sacred Art

The Sarcophagus of Lord Pakal

The Meaning of Color

Sacred Time and Sacred Space

The Meaning of Time

Sacred Time and Space in Australia

The Symbolism of Music and Dance

The Symbolism of Music

The Symbolism of Dance


Suggested Reading and 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

Revitalization Rituals

Rites of Passage

Alterations of the Human Body


The Huichol Pilgrimage

Religious Obligations


Jewish Food Laws


Suggested Reading and 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

Ethnographic Examples of Altered States of Consciousness

San Healing Rituals

The Sun Dance of the Cheyenne

The Holiness Churches

Drug-Induced Altered States of Consciousness

Hallucinogenic Stuff among the Yanomamö

The Use of Tobacco in South America

The Use of Peyote in the Native American Church

The Use of Marijuana among the Rastafarians


Suggested Reading and Websites

Study Questions

6. Religious Specialists


Defining Shamanism

Siberian Shamanism

Korean Shamanism

Pentecostal Healers as Shamans



Zuni Priests

Okinawan Priestesses

Eastern Orthodox Priests

Other Specialists

Healers and Diviners



Suggested Reading and Websites

Study Questions

7. Magic and Divination

The Nature of Magic

Magic and Religion

Rules of Magic

Magic in Society

Magic in the Trobriand Islands

Magic among the Azande

Sorcery among the Fore

Wiccan Magic


Forms of Divination

A Survey of Divination Techniques


Fore Divination

Oracles of the Azande

Divination in Ancient Greece: The Oracle at Delphi

Magical Behavior and the Human Mind

Magical Thinking

Why Magic Works


Suggested Reading and Websites

Study Questions

8. Souls, Ghosts, and Death

Souls and Ancestors

Variation in the Concept of the Soul

Souls, Death, and the Afterlife

Examples of Concepts of the Soul


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

Days of Death


Suggested Reading and 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


Types of Gods

Gods and Society

The Gods of the Yoruba

The Gods of the Ifugao


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



Suggested Reading and Websites

Study Questions


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

Modern-Day Witch Hunts


Suggested Reading and 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

The Ghost Dance of 1890

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

Neo-Paganism and Revival

The Wiccan Movement

High Demand Religions

The “Cult” Question

Characteristics of High Demand Religions

Examples of High Demand Religions

UFO Religions


Suggested Reading and Websites

Study Questions

12. Religion, Conflict, and Peace

Religion and Conflict

Role of Religion in Conflict and Violence


Characteristics of Fundamentalist Groups

Case Studies of Religion and Conflict

The Iranian Revolution

The Arab Spring

The Hobby Lobby Case in the United States

Religion, Terrorism and Peace

Religious Conflict and Terrorism

Religion and Peace


Suggested Reading and Websites

Study Questions



About the Authors

Rebecca L. Stein is Professor of Anthropology and Department Chair at Los Angeles Valley College, USA.

Philip L. Stein is Professor of Anthropology (Emeritus) at Los Angeles Pierce College, USA. He is a fellow of the American Anthropological Association and a past president of the Society for Anthropology in Community Colleges.

Subject Categories

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