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Assignment 10 Directions

Below you will find descriptions of four different religions (A, B, C, and D). To complete Assignment 11, you should carefully read each description and then decide which of the four types of religion each one is best categorized as. The four types of religion are present as “Types of Religion” in lecture and as “Wallace’s Typology of Religions” in the text.

Go to Assignment 10: Categorizing Religions and write a short paragraph for each religion that names the best applied category and, more importantly, explains what about the religion, as described below, led you to choose that category. Also mention anything mentioned in description that does not quite fit with the label you have chosen.

Grading Rubric:

Spelling, grammar, and clarity: 2 points

Reasonable classification of the religions: 2 points

Explanation of classification and exceptions to how well the religion fits in the category you have chosen, drawing from text below: 6 points

Religion A: Zoroastrianism

The first descriptions of Zoroastrianism are in Herodotus’ The Histories (440 BCE). Although the religion is not mentioned by name, characteristic cultural features associated with the religion are mentioned as parts of the histories of the Persian and Median Empires. Particularly recognizable, is the practice of exposing the dead to the elements before burial. In this region, Zoroastrianism was eventually replaced by Islam, though not before it spread east and became the official religion of several archaic states in modern day China.

Core tenants of Zoroastrianism include belief in the God, Ahura Mazda, from whom originates all good things–asha, (truth / order). The opposite of asha is druj (lies / chaos). Human choices affect the universal balance between these two concepts. There are many different classes of priests who have different formalized functions.

Today, there are estimated to be approximately 200,000 Zoroastrians around the world. India has the biggest population, with the United States having the second largest.

Religion B: Saami Religion

The Saami were traditionally a group of nomadic pastoralists who herded reindeer. Saami shamans (noaidis) were the primary religious practitioners of the culture. The work of the noaidis was to serve as intermediaries between people and the pantheon of deities and spirits through drumming, divination, and trance.

Gods in the Saami religion included Beaivi (the Sun), Dearpmis (weather, people’s health and welfare), and Leaibolmmái (hunting and animals). People gathered together to offer prayers and sacrifices to Leaibolmmái each morning and evening who, being responsible for the animals they depended on, was of particular importance. Saami belief systems also incorporated Seitas, who are more local patron deities who could be gotten rid of if they stopped serving the Saami people, by consensus of the community.

Today, most Saami have converted to various forms of Christianity, after going through a period in which they did such things as painting Catholic imagery on traditional sacred drums, etc.

Religion C: Ancient Aztec Religion

The religion of the ancient Aztecs included a large number of Gods that were associated with particular powers or were patrons of particular groups, and were often incorporated into the pantheon from peoples and cultures that were conquered by the Aztecs.

The framework of the religion was structured around a sophisticated calendar, and certain ceremonies had to be performed at certain times, often dictated by astronomical events.

Huitzilopochtli  (Left-Handed Hummingbird) was associated with the sun and warfare and was the patron God of the Mexica people (who ruled the Aztec Empire at its height). Huitzilopochtli grew in importance relative to the other Gods in the pantheon as the Mexica’s influence grew. Other important Gods included Tlaloc, the god of rain, Quetzalcoatl, who was more concerned with people’s welfare than many of the others, and Tezcatlipoca, the god of destiny and fortune.

Religion D: !Kung Religion

The !Kung are foragers of the Kalahari desert. Their spiritual leaders, shamans, serve as intermediaries between living people and their ancestors—who have the power to influence the weather and do other things for living people. !Kung shamans also perform healing services, both by entreating supernatural powers and through their own knowledge and power. Both healing and divination can be accomplished during trance states, which are arrived at through ceremonial dancing and smoking on the part of the shaman.

The sun, moon, stars, particular geologic features, and animals (particularly the praying mantis) have religious significance and / or are seen as being divine. Fire also has ritual, healing, and cleansing properties, and when a shaman performs a certain dance around a fire, he or she has the power to heal the people sitting around it

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