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6.7: Religious Specialists

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    102852
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    Shaman

    A shaman is a part-time religious practitioner who acts as a medium between the human and spirit world. A shaman is believed to have the power to communicate with supernatural forces to intercede on the behalf of individuals or groups. The term shaman,as defined in Schultz and Lavenda,"comes from the Tungus of eastern Siberia, where it refers to a religious specialist who has the ability to enter a trance through which he or she is believed to enter into direct contact with spiritual beings and guardian spirits for the purposes of healing, fertility, protection, and aggression, in a ritual setting [10]." Shamans are generally thought of as healers, and yet they may also be feared or mistrusted by their own people because of their supernatural capabilities. Although having the power to converse with spirits may make them subject to suspicion, shamans are usually considered to be powerful, influential and valuable members of their society. There are even some tales among the peoples of North America about shamans succeeding in bringing the souls of the dead back to earth. [11] Shamans are often prevalent among hunter-gatherer societies. A shaman must typically endure intense training which may take over a decade and involve the use of psychotropic drugs to attain an altered state of consciousness. Shamanic activity is said to take place while the shaman is in a trance. Typical methods for inducing a trance involve:

    • fasting
    • the use of psychedelic mushrooms, peyote, cannabis, ayahuasca, salvia, tobacco
    • dancing, singing or drumming to a hypnotic rhythm
    • deadly nightshade
    • sweat lodges
    • vision quests
    • incense and plants such as morning glory, sage, and sweet grass

    Shamans have been an integral part of hunter-gatherer societies for thousands of years. In prehistoric North America, for example, evidence of shamanic activity has been discovered in the form of rock art. Archaeologist David Whitley explains that"shamans would often record their spiritual journeys symbolically by carving or painting rock surfaces in a sacred place. For instance, among the Numic people and in south-central California, rock art was created by shamans the morning after a vision was received, in order to preserve it for posterity. This was necessary because forgetting the details of a vision would result in the shaman's death or serious illness [12]." Whitley also points out that,"there is extensive and compelling ethnohistorical evidence from throughout far western North America that the rock art in this region was made after the conclusion of ASCs (altered state of consciousness) to portray shamans' and puberty initiates' visions of the supernatural realm [13]." Shamanic art is often characterized by geometric patterns and or images of death, flight, drowning and sexual intercourse.[14] Some researchers advocate that rock art is symbolic of the visual imagery and sensations a person experiences on hallucinogenic drugs. Shamanic activity is still practiced among North American tribes today, although it has drastically declined since European colonization (only around 500 of the 2,000 tribes remain that were present in the 17th century).[7][8]

    Priest and Priestess

    A priest or priestess, male and female respectively, is a person within a religion that has special authority to perform religious rituals. Different religions have different rules about men or women being excluded from the priesthood or to what degree. Priests and Priestesses differ from shamans in that it is often a full-time occupation. Being a priest is an institutional result through social aspiration and belief. Priests generally hold a higher position and status in society over those they preside over. A priest's power comes from the recognized influence of their religious organization and the hierarchy. A form of priesthood exists in many religions such as Judaism, Christianity, Shintoism, and Hinduism. For many religions being a priest or priestess is a life-long commitment and can be left only either voluntarily or by excommunication.

    Priest's main duties consist of-of guiding other believers in worship, knowledge of the religion, and spiritual guidance. They spread a word of their religious beliefs and mediate contact between individuals and their deity. These rites are carried out for the benefit of the believers such as with healing or absolution granted by the higher powers. The priests are connected to the deity of their beliefs through numerous different systems based upon the religion. Some believe there are oracles or prophets while others achieve a connection to higher forces through direct contact.

    Other societies in ancient history were affiliated with priests and priestesses. Ancient Egypt was among one of the first cultures to use priests to carry out sacred rituals rather than having a shaman. Becoming a Priest was often passed down from father and son rather than being appointed like many other cultures. Duties of Egyptian priest were to care for the gods and goddesses as well as attend to the needs of them. Unlike how the priest is seen today, as only being close to the gods and having the rapport with them, the job was more like an everyday job. The duties of the priest were more than just preaching and religious practices. They taught in schools, assisted artists and their works, and guided people through their problems. Egyptian priest believed in many ritual taboos, some of these were that the priest must be circumcised. Many priests also wouldn't wear wool or any animal products because it was seen as unclean. PRIESTS also would bath 3 to 4 times a day in sacred pools, and shave off all of their body hair.

    Pastors, Ministers, and Reverends

    Figure \(\PageIndex{1}\): Roman Catholic priests in clerical clothing, Vienna, Austria, 2005

    Pastors (also known as Ministers or Reverends) are generally known as ordained leaders within the Christian church. Unlike priests, pastors do not serve the role of mediating between a person/group and God; instead, they are in charge of leading and mentoring the church towards developing and deepening a personal relationship with Jesus Christ. Not only do pastors help people develop a deep relationship with Jesus, but they also help with marriage counseling and other types of counseling for everybody and anybody in the church.

    If a church is already developed but does not have a pastor (or minister/reverend) yet, often the other leaders or elders of the church will determine pastoral qualifications which they feel are vital to being a good leader of the congregation. Churches may look more closely at other qualifications of the pastor, in order to find a leader who will have the same core beliefs, values, and goals that the church has already set in place.

    Qualifications to be a good pastor: Love for their people, A positive attitude and approach, people skills, an intimate relationship with god, priority on teaching, leadership and focus.[15]

    Prophets

    Figure \(\PageIndex{2}\): The prophet Abraham of Judaism who was to sacrifice his son for God.

    The basic definition of the word "prophet" is someone who has encountered the supernatural or divine. Prophets are often regarded as someone who has a role in their society in which they are able to promote change due to their messages and/or actions. However, the word "prophet" is extremely subjective, depending on which religious context it is being used in. To some, an individual may be considered an "authentic prophet", while to others that same individual may be considered a "false prophet"(regardless of their religious background). Some religions that include the use of prophets are Christianity, Judaism, Islam, the Sybilline and Delpich Oracles practiced in Ancient Greece, and Zoroaster.

    In regards to the non-religious use of the word in the late 20th century, "prophet" refers to either people who are successful in analyzing the field of economics (the "prophets of greed") or to those who are social commentators that suggest there may be an escalating crisis within their environment and society due to others' lack of compassion ("prophets of doom"). In more modern times, however, the concept of "prophets" as a whole has come under scrutiny, passing off the visions that the prophets have as cases of Schizophrenia.

    Judaism

    Prophets are heavily intertwined with Judaism. In this religion, a prophet is an individual who is selected by God to act as a representation. The prophets intend their messages to cause social changes among people, in order to conform to God's desires for humanity. Currently, the Talmud recognizes 48 male prophets and 7 women prophets. Non-Jewish prophets have a much lower status than Jewish prophets in the eyes of those who adhere to the Jewish traditions. A few prophets that are referenced in the Jewish religion are Abraham, Job, Samuel, Miriam, Moses, Isaiah, Ezekial and Malachi. Judaism is not only about being religious and reading the Talmud, there are many cultural aspects of Judaism. For example, Jewish principles consist around G-d and how you act to benefit others as yourself. It also has to do with the arrival of the Messiah as well as the resurrection of the dead.

    Islam

    Islam was founded in 610 A.D and is a major world religion promulgated by the Prophet Mohammed. In Islam, Mohammed is considered the last of a series of prophets (including Adam, Noah, Abraham, Moses, Solomon, and Jesus), and his message simultaneously consummates and completes the “revelations” attributed to earlier prophets. During Prophet Mohammed’s time, polytheism reigned. His people were worshipping multiple gods. The religion taught by Mohammed to a small group of followers spread rapidly through the Middle East to Africa, Europe, the Indian subcontinent, the Malay Peninsula, and China. By the early 21st century there were more than 1.5 billion Muslims worldwide. Although many sectarian movements have arisen within Islam, all Muslims are bound by a common faith and a sense of belonging to a single community. During one of Prophet Mohammed’s trips as a trader, he had a vision from a being he perceived to be an angel who said, “There is only one God, and His name is Allah. Worship Him.” “Islam has seven fundamental beliefs that every Muslim must accept as a part of his/her religion (the Emanul Mufassil, or Faith Listed in Detail). Every Muslim learns this formula as a part of his/her religious training.” *

    Monk

    Figure \(\PageIndex{3}\): St. Anthony the Great, considered the Father of Christian Monasticism

    The term "monk" is used to describe a religious specialist who conditions the mind and body in favor of the spirit. This conditioning often includes seclusion from those who do not follow the same beliefs, abstinence, silence, and prayer. Monks were originally present solely in Christianity, but through a looser definition created by modern Westerners, the term has been applied to more religions (ex. Buddhism). The term is also often used interchangeably with the term “ascetic,” which describes a greater focus on a life of abstinence, especially from sex, alcohol, and material wealth. In Ancient Greece, “monk” referred to both men and women, as opposed to modern English, which uses the term “nun” to describe a female monk. Before becoming a monk in a monastery, nearly every monk must take some sort of vow, the most famous being the Roman Catholic vow of “poverty, chastity, and obedience.” It is also common to have a hierarchy within a monastery through which monks can rise over time with the growth of spiritual excellence. Monks are often confused with friars. Although they are very similar, the main difference between the two terms is the inclusion of friars in community development and aid to the poor.

    While two of the more known types of monks are Orthodox and Roman Catholic, a recently created sect of monasteries is Anglican. Roman Catholic monks were common throughout England until King Henry VIII broke off from the Roman Catholic Church and later ordered the razing, demolishing or removal, of all monasteries. Centuries later during the 1840s, a Catholic revitalization movement began in England, prompting Anglicans to believe that a monastic life should become not only part of England again, but also part of the Anglican Church. John Henry Newman started the first Anglican monastery in Littlemore, near Oxford. Since then, Anglican monasteries have spread throughout England and have been known to lead a “mixed” existence by taking traditions from different religions and religious specialists. They daily recite the Divine Office in a choir and follow services from the Book of Common Prayer and Breviary. The also celebrate the Eucharist daily, and like Roman Catholic monks, take a vow of poverty, chastity, and obedience. The Anglican’s service to the local community, as a friar might do, sets them apart from other monks. However, during the past century and especially the past few decades, Anglican monasteries have lost support and are becoming extinct.

    Saints

    Saints are individuals who have died but, in Catholicism, have lead virtuous lives and have gone through the process of canonization. Canonization is the act when a Christian church declares that a person who has died was a saint, and said person is added to the list of recognized saints after an investigation of two miracles (one during the person’s life and the second after their death). Christian saints are most commonly individuals of excessive holiness who had done amazing things in their lifetime and after. Commonly have followed in the teachings of Christ, though not all were Christian. The lives and teachings of saints has been used to further the examples of the a persons faith. They are essentially experts on the ways of holiness and their lives are to be used as examples making them in a way a religious expert. Some defining characteristics of saints are as follows:

    • exemplary model
    • extraordinary teacher
    • wonder worker or source of benevolent power
    • intercessor
    • selfless, ascetic behavior
    • possessor of a special and revelatory relation to the holy.[9]

    There are currently over 10,000 saints. Many saints also have an associated item they are recognized for or something which they protect. Many saints also have a day associated for a feast in their honor. For the Catholic Church a saint is "recognized" by them, usually through the pope, as a saint and therefore is guaranteed passage into heaven. Then also Judaism, Hinduism, Sikhism, Islam, Buddhism, Sufism all have saint like figures. A saint is known for doing a task that is for the better of others. Saints wants to be a good person and want to help others, as they do so in the name of a religion.


    6.7: Religious Specialists is shared under a CC BY-SA 4.0 license and was authored, remixed, and/or curated by Wikibooks - Cultural Anthropology.

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