Religion can be explained as a relationship between human beings and a power ( supernatural). This relationship includes beliefs, practices, and customs, and usually involves devotional and ritual observances. It comprises sacred texts which refer to the moral order of human conduct and several verses, essays, and sayings which help as a guidance towards the right path of life. On the other hand, religion can be confused with many other supernatural or magical activities. It may include animism, animatism, totemism, and fetishism but is different from all of them. Religion is also not identical to society or social, nor can we state that religion adheres to life alone, because it opens the vastest view on the other world and afterlife after death. Let us try to understand the difference between the sacred and the profane, If we try to put some orders into facts we’ll be able to understand the relation between magic and religion.
THE CREATIVE ACTS OF RELIGION
Human life, from the very beginning, is surrounded by a mixture of beliefs and rites. They play an important role in shaping the life of individuals through various events. There are certain physical and biological phases of human life such as conception, pregnancy, birth, puberty, marriage, and death, these phases mark the basis of beliefs and rites. Beliefs about conception are related to spirit entry, reincarnation, etc. During pregnancy, the mother has to obey certain taboos, and both father and mother are expected to perform certain ceremonies. At birth, there are various magical rites to prevent the new born from danger as well as purification rites. Later in life, both girls and boys have to undergo rites of initiation, which take place in mystery with obscene ordeals.
In the Magical or supernatural activities, the aim and the motive are always clear, and precise whereas in the religious ceremonies there is no direct aim, it includes the devotion of the devotee but no direct motive.
PRIMITIVE RELIGIOUS CEREMONIES – (Ceremonies of initiation): Novices(youth)have to undergo a small period of seclusion in which they prepare themselves mentally, then comes the initiation period, where they have to undergo certain ordeals, which include bodily mutilation, slight incision or knocking out of a tooth. In some of the Australian tribes, there are several cruel and dangerous practices of initiation practiced.
The second feature of initiation is the training period of( teaching )the youth, explaining to the novices about sacred myths and tradition, disclosing tribal mysteries to the youth, and giving exposure of the sacred objects.
The third feature of initiation is to put the novice or the youth into a relationship with a legendary power or ancestral heroes or great personalities such as Guardians spirits of North Americans Indians, Tribal All–Fathers of Australian aborigines, etc.
In primitive societies, tradition plays an important role and has supreme value for the well-being of the community. Therefore, civilization can be maintained in the community by strictly adhering to the order and sacred knowledge which is passed from one generation to the next. Any laxity (negligence) towards the order and sacred knowledge leads to the weakening of society and the community. So, one needs to maintain, primitive man’s knowledge, values, customs, and beliefs in order to survive in the society and these qualities which help to make a tradition sacred will automatically increase the chances of “survival value” of a particular person.
FUNCTIONS OF INITIATION CEREMONIES- Initiation ceremonies are filled with rituals and have a substantial portrayed image of supreme and supernatural power, it has a prominent value of tradition in primitive culture, they celebrate this power and inculcate the value of this power upon the novices( new generation)
INITIATION AS A RELIGIOUS ACT- An initiation is a religious act, which creates a social transformation and leads to bodily maturity, and gives novices an opportunity to enter a new phase of life that is manhood which comprises duties, privileges, responsibilities, sacred knowledge of tradition. These acts of initiation create a kind of spiritual transformation among the novices.
Another type of religious ceremony is the rite of marriage, which comprise a bond, or the union of man and woman for lifelong relation, economic duties, the procreation, and rearing of children. This union(relationship) is also known as monogamous marriage and has been witnessed in human societies.
PROVIDENCE IN PRIMITIVE LIFE
PROPAGATION and nutrition are important features of the primitive individual. Earlier Sex, was regarded as an essential element in Religion, it was allowed in various harvest festivals, public gatherings, etc, but later it was regarded as inappropriate as Religion, is a source of moral control, it was sidelined and finally the ideal of chastity was introduced and established as the moral of self-discipline.
NUTRITION– Eating, for primitive man is an act that is surrounded by etiquettes and prohibitions. Food has an important role in ceremonies of a religious character. First-fruit offerings were ritual offering which was usually offered during harvest ceremonies and seasonal feasts. Hunters and fishers also observed offering usually at the beginning of a particular season or celebrated the victory with feasts and ceremonies at which food is ritually handled. Animals were worshipped during ritual offerings and feasts. These acts express the joy and togetherness of the community and their gratitude towards the value of food. Thus, religion creates an attitude of respect in men and the whole community towards his daily bread.
The ultimate goal of life to the primitive man is an abundance of food. It means that receiving it shows gratitude towards destiny. Sacrifice and communion, the two main forms in which food is ritually governed, that the idea of giving, the importance of the exchange of gifts in the phases of life play a role in sacrifice. Underlying this custom there is a still deeper religious element which is, Since food is available in abundance and in the beneficence of the world, many of them offers the food to the spirits and divinities first, which in turn means that by sharing the food sacrificially with the spirits or divinities, beneficial powers are provided to the individual. According to the primitive belief, there is a reciprocal relationship between the role of food (Sacrificial offerings) with the primitive man and divine authorities that the more they offer and give respect to the divinity or the spirits, the more they receive in abundance.
The sacramental meal is another facet, which includes the act of eating. The case of sacramental eating is known as the “totemic sacrament” of central Australian tribes.
MAN’S SELECTIVE INTEREST IN NATURE
There are a number of animals and vegetable species, which are important and form a source of food among the tribesmen. Primitive men get associated and create a sentiment of social attachment around each species, a sentiment that naturally finds its roots in mythology, belief, and ritual. The primitive man has a keen interest in animals he desires to have them and wants to control them. All these interests are ranked in a certain order of likeness such as animals on the top of the hierarchy, vegetable acquiring the second position, inanimate or manmade things acquiring secondary formation, and termed totemism. The type of man’s interest in the totemic species out of the hierarchy indicates the type of belief and cult they are interested in and will likely follow. Magic tends to become specialized within a family or clan which are known as totemic clans. Totemism is a form of Religion that helps the primitive man to make sufficient use of his of surroundings. It also creates dependence on certain species more precisely the animals and plants, which in return creates a sense of respect and feeling of gratitude towards them. Religion plays an important role, in the position of primitive man and his selective interest in nature.
DEATH AND THE REINTEGRATION OF GROUPS
In religion, life and death, play an important or a great role. Death leads to the path in the other world or (afterlife). According to most theories of early religion, there are a lot of assumptions related to life and death. Primitive people’s attitude towards death is extremely complex which include different activities , emotions and segments of mourning. The dominant feelings related to death is that of horror at the corpse and of fear of the ghost. The two elements such as emotional attachment to the dead body and destruction of the corpse play an important role in each other.
As death approaches, close relatives, neighbors, friends, or the whole community, gather near the dead body, the most private act which can be performed by a single hand is transformed into a public, tribal event. Certain different activities take place at the same time, some of the relatives watching and mourning near the corpse, others making preparations for the following activities and, others performing some religious activities where the dead body has to be disposed off.
After some time, the dead body is washed, anointed (apply oil) dressed with cloth, the bodily openings are filled such as of nose and ears with cotton, the arms and legs are tied. There is always a loud outburst of grief and sorrow, which include loud mourning. After a time the corpse has to be disposed of usually by ( burying the dead) with an open and later closed grave. There are several ways of disposing of the dead body which are different in different tribes. There exist two dichotomies related to the destruction of a dead body, one is to preserve the body, and on the other hand to annihilate(destruct) it completely which is known as Mummification in the former and burning in the latter. The funerary rites are considered as unclean, unhygienic, and polluting, those who were part of the destruction (or the disposing of the body )ceremonies have to take a bath after the ritual had taken place. There is the idea of the spirit and the belief that the dead one has entered into a new life or afterlife.
Religion, plays an important role by selecting the positive aspect, it holds a valuable belief that the spirit is set free after the death and when it was alive the soul was in a constant flow of duties, but after death, it has entered into the new arena and is independent without the body. Religion also holds the belief that death is not the ultimate end of life, there exists a life or afterlife and the journey of the soul continues. Spirits and Ghosts can be taken in a positive sense as the spirits of the afterlife are seen as ancestral spirits and not as those which haunt in the dreams and illusions. Religion can be linked to many attributes we see from the beginning of this article such as rites of initiation, marriage rites, sacred offerings, totemism, death, and afterlife dichotomy, Religion and sacredness can be found in every aspect of the tribal societies, communities and their culture. Religion is the whole whereas culture, tradition, and rituals are the sum of its parts.
Also Read: Sociology of Religion