Tuesday, August 20, 2013

Sir Edward B TyIor – Primitive Cuture – ReIigion in primitive cuIture

This was the main text I read and referenced when writing my initial proposal. He used the term animism and personification and I was confused about the difference to anthropomorphism.
Below are the definitions I found on Wikipedia.

Animism is the religious worldview that natural physical entities—including animals, plants, and often even inanimate objects or phenomena—possess a spiritual essence. Specifically, animism is used in the anthropology of religion as a term for the religion of some indigenous tribal peoples, especially prior to the development and/or infiltration of colonialism and organized religion.
Anthropomorphism, or personification, is attribution of human form or other characteristics to anything other than a human being. Examples include depicting deities with human form and ascribing human emotions or motives to forces of nature, such as hurricanes or earthquakes. Anthropomorphism has ancient roots as a literary device in storytelling, and also in art. Most cultures have traditional fables with anthropomorphised animals, which can stand or talk like humans, as characters.

Also on WiseGeek website they had an interesting explanation of what the difference was.
The difference between anthropomorphism and personification is a subtle one, as each term refers to a similar assignment of human characteristics to a non-human entity. Anthropomorphism is a literary device that an author uses to give traditionally human feelings or actions to an animal, plant, or inanimate object. For example, the sentence, "The wind blew angrily, expressing the full extent of his violent rage," applies this concept, because the wind retains its non-human form while taking on human emotions, intentions, and a masculine pronoun. Personification works similarly and occurs when the writer allows a non-human entity to fully embody human traits. The Easter Bunny is an example of personification, as an animal becomes a total embodiment of human characteristics and abilities.

Primitive Culture was a very interesting study of primitive cultures and the common thread of the spiritualisation of inanimate objects. Mythology, philosophy, religion are all discussed referencing different cultures. I was also introduced to the term Pareidolia, which is the tendency to see patterns in abstract phenomena, like seeing faces on inanimate objects. 

Shintoism from Japan was discussed and it explains the obsession Japanese culture has with cute characters and anthropomorphism. Many primitive cultures have a long history of evoking spiritual and human like powers onto inanimate objects especially favorite tools for either hunting or performing tasks. 

He discusses how the first thing we learn about is human beings. As children we naturally project human like qualities onto inanimate objects. It could be suggested that observing human nature is part of our human nature.

He talks about ideas such as the transmigration of souls into objects such as trees. Also, human like qualities within the sun, moon and stars and the spiritual qualities of certain landscapes.
He discusses language as having feminine and masculine meanings. 

Animism is, in fact, the groundwork of the Philosophy of Religion, from that of savages up to that of civilized men. Pg 426

I found Tylor’s book to be quite enlightening. I am quite open with my attraction to the anthropomorphic but on a more personal level I am more restrained discussing any spiritual beliefs. I am, I would say, equally attracted to spirituality, specifically Buddhist philosophy, native spiritual beliefs and some new age ideas and concepts. It is something that has grown with me since child hood and was amplified when I went through cancer some 15 years ago. I found it comforting to realise there was link between anthropomorphism and spirituality. Putting faces on everything could be linked to some subliminal spiritual instinct. 

 An example of Anthropomorphism from Wikipedia. This illustration by Milo Winter of the Aesop's fable, The North Wind and the Sun, an anthropomorphic North Wind tries to strip a traveler of his cloak.

An example of Animism via Wikipedia. A tableau presenting figures of various cultures filling in mediator-like roles, often being termed as "shaman" in the literature. 

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