Flashcards for Anthropology of Religion
Topics 4-5:  Trancing in Religion and Magic and Religion
(16 cards)

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Copyright © 2004 by Dennis O'Neil. All rights reserved.

Common techniques used by shamans to achieve a trance state.

fasting, self-torture, sensory deprivation, breathing exercises and meditation, prolonged repetitive ritual dancing and/or drumming, and hallucinogenic drugs

What shamans commonly report that they do when they go into a trance.

They are taking a journey in which they must pass through difficult situations in order to reach their own spirit helpers. Those friendly spirits then aid the shaman in curing an illness, bewitching someone, or in some other supernatural way.

The general term for a mind altering drug that can cause profound hallucinations or an altered state of awareness.

hallucinogen (or hallucinogenic drug)

The area of the world where shamanistic use of mind altering drugs has been especially widespread.

Native America, especially in small-scale, egalitarian societies in the Amazon Basin and Mesoamerica

The source of most mind altering drugs used for religious purposes by shamans. (Hint: think in terms of plants, animals, minerals, etc.)


The general term for the use of ritual formulas to compel or influence supernatural beings or powers to act in certain ways for good or evil purposes.


The general term for magic based on the principle that "like produces like." For instance, whatever happens to an image of someone will also happen to them. (Hint: this is also referred to as "imitative" magic.)

sympathetic magic

The general term for magic that is based on the principle that things or persons once in contact can afterward influence each other. In other words, there is a permanent relationship between an individual and any part of his or her body.

contagious magic

The principle of magic involved in the use of voodoo dolls in the folk tradition of Haiti.

sympathetic magic

The principle of magic involved when people must take special precautions with their hair, fingernails, teeth, clothes, and feces because someone could use these things to perform magic which would cause the person they came from to be affected.

contagious magic

The reason that the existence of witchcraft cannot be easily refuted with arguments based on scientific facts.

Believers are not dissuaded by pointing out that there is no evidence that any witchcraft was used against them because it can be practiced in secret.

The method used by ancient Romans to divine the future.

autopsying chickens and examining the condition of their livers

The method commonly used by shamans to divine the future.

entering a trance state to find out the answers from their spirit helpers

The way mental illness is usually explained in societies which accept that magic and witchcraft are real.

It is seen as being a consequence of witchcraft or the actions of supernatural beings and forces.

How witchcraft can be used as a means of social control in a society that strongly believes in its practice and power.

Deviant behavior often results in an individual being labeled as a witch. Since witches are feared and often ostracized or even killed when discovered, the mere threat of being accused of witchcraft can be sufficient to force people into modal behavior.

The general term for actions involving magic or supernatural powers usually undertaken for the purpose of doing harm. (Hint: this is a limited anthropological definition that does not describe the activities of modern Western European and North American Wicca. The latter are members of an organized religion.)