One of the most interesting features of anthropological discussions (and those in related disciplines) of sacred place has been the issue of contestation both in relation to the construction of sacred place and in the construction of theorizing about such spaces. This aspect, however, has often been ignored or underplayed in structuralist or structural-functionalist analyses (as for example in many of Victor Turner's discussions of pilgrimage). This is also in part true of my earlier structuralist analysis of this subject, God's Place in the World (1998). That volume examined a range of different models of sacred space found in Judaism from the Biblical to the modern period. While the discussion of Biblical use of sacred space did touch on alternative models of space (centralized and decentralized models), the issues of contestation and a theoretical basis for a more complex understanding of structure were not developed.
From an examination of recent social and cultural theory and selected work on place and space by scholars of religion I draw together resources for the development of a spatial methodology for the study of religion. In order to identify the key elements of this methodology, I discuss relations between the body and space, the dimensions, properties and aspects of space, and its dynamics, including the mutual imbrication of space, the “sacred” and sacralization. Consideration is given briefly to the application of a spatial approach, its strengths and weaknesses.
In this article we examine the character gallery in a digitized corpus of 11,955 Danish sermons from the Evangelical Lutheran Church in Denmark written between 2011 and 2016. We study these sermons as a collective text production in which the characters represented illustrate aspects of Christian tradition and cultural history. We depart from the following questions: which characters populate Danish sermons, and what representations of biblical texts and history are displayed from the interrelations of these characters? In line with Bakhtinian thought we approach the sermonic character gallery as a polyphony of voices, and informed by the Deleuzian idea of the rhizome, we understand this character gallery as a network in which characters through their connections to other characters form clusters of thematic narratives. We represent this network through a social network analysis using computational tools, and closely analyse which characters are connected in the network’s sub-groups, and how. We find that biblical figures especially enhance stories of Jesus as saviour, teacher, or caretaker, while political figures tend to be dissociated from biblical figures and representing narratives of historical atrocities. In addition to these figures a large group of anonymized characters prevails.
Since ancient times celestial thunder gods have been a familiar feature in mythologies throughout the Indo-European language area. Their Irish counterpart, the Dagda, is a major personage at the centre of the Mythological Cycle, and his possible connections to the Scandinavian god Thor are examined here. Following a brief section dealing with questions of methodology, points of comparison are addressed which include the two gods’ common primary role as defenders of their realm; their place in the assembly of gods; their principal weapons and implements (iron club/hammer/harp, cauldron); their associations with cosmology and artisans; and their visits to the abode of their monstrous adversaries, incorporating elements of the burlesque. Both gods appear in versions of the international tale ATU 1148B ‘The Thunder Instrument’ (Thor in the Old Norse poem Þrymskviða, and the Dagda’s recovery of his harp from the Irish Mythological Cycle), and the nature of the parallels between the two versions is examined. The question of a borrowing during the Viking era, or of an inherited body of tradition possibly from Indo-European times, is discussed: the international tale type also leads to the myth, at a further temporal and geographical remove, of the Greek god Zeus and the theft of his thunderbolts. A proposed sequential account of the development and evolution of both gods from remote antiquity is provided.
Based on local newspaper coverage of a Mandela solidarity concert in Tromsø in June 2005, the article discusses the importance of mega events in relation to place construction, with particular emphasis on ritual aspects. Mega events are shaped by a global discourse, which emphasizes the uniqueness of place and locality. Through the staging of mega events, people are provided with opportunities for thinking about themselves and their locality, for experiencing the pictures and messages presented, and for representing them to the world. Such opportunities are not limited to mega places and centres of the world order. This was the case of a mega event in a small place, and a place, moreover, that has traditionally been designated the primitive backyard of the Norwegian periphery. The concert stories drew upon such established images, but revised them as indicative of uniqueness and authenticity. Constructed in contrast to world centres in general and 'Norwegian-ness' in particular, the concert stories at the same time spoke to the emergent features of a global civil religion. Placed under the midnight sun in northern Norway, Mandela served both as a high priest of this project, and as the bridge between local uniqueness and 'good' globalization.
In this article I propose to analyze Lauri Honko’s contribution in comparative religion in terms of tradition ecology, the general research framework Honko himself saw – at least in retrospect – as the unifying theme in his work. My aim is to provide an analytical account of his theoretical contribution in the study of religion that started already in his dissertation Krankheitsprojektile (1959) and culminated in his last major work, Textualising the Siri Epic (1998). Lauri Honko’s research topics ranged from folk beliefs, myths and rituals to ethnomedicine, oral epics and cultural identity. Yet religion, understood as culturally mediated interaction with the culturally postulated supernatural entities, remained one of his constant objects of interest. Moreover, I will argue that the fluid nature of contemporary post-secular religiosity is well captured by the tradition-ecology tools developed by Honko. I will end up by discussing the contribution of Honko’s doctoral students in comparative religion and folkloristics.
The Mountain of Aaron (Jabal Haroun) near the ancient city of Petra, Jordan, is the traditional burial place of the Old Testament prophet and a site considered sacred by the three world religions of Christianity, Judaism and Islam. Since 1997, a Finnish archaeological project has been investigating the mountain through the excavations of a Byzantine pilgrimage complex on its high plateau and an intensive survey of its surroundings. In the course of the excavations, it has become clear that the Byzantine structures were preceded by a monumental building, probably a temple of the Nabataean-Roman period. Moreover, already in the pre-Christian period a pilgrim route probably led from central Petra to Jabal Haroun. The article explores the history and archaeology of Jabal Haroun, which shows a remarkable degree of continuity and opens up the prospect that the local folk tradition may preserve elements of Nabataean religion. Using contemporary rituals and beliefs associated with the mountain as a reference point, we suggest that the pre-Christian 'deity of Jabal Haroun' can be identified as the Nabataean goddess al-'Uzza.
The so called 'cartoon crisis' that arose in the wake of the publication of twelve satirical drawings of the Prophet Muhammad has been discussed in numerous ways. So far, however, the debate has not included a deeper analysis of why the desecration of Islam's prophet ignited such a response. Contrary to the claims of Islamic dogmaticism, the attributions regarding Muhammad's properties as a human being in Islamic culture in certain ways supersedes the cult for Allah. Muhammad is perceived as the perfect human being, and everything good about humanity consequently has Muhammad at its root. The disfavouring of Muhammad therefore is the disfavouring of any Muslim and of humanity as such. The article argues that the cartoons were interpreted more than anything else as a mockery of human dignity, and that the response was in defense of that rather than of Islamic dogmaticism.
A comment on the article ‘Knowing, Being, and Doing Religion: Introducing an Analytical Model for Researching Vernacular Religion’ by Ruth Illman and Mercédesz Czimbalmos, published in Temenos vol. 56 no. 2 (2020), 171–99.
Religious themes and characters have lately assumed center stage in a number of Scandinavian films. As with films from other parts of the world, so also in Scandinavian films a suspicion of certain religious traditions can be observed. In Scandinavian films this is not only true of traditionally foreign religions, but for some domestic religious groups as well, among them the Laestadian revival movement. In this article we analyze how this movement and its members are constructed as Other in four Scandinavian films. We theorize this 'Othering' with the help of Gramsci's concept of hegemony and argue that the 'othering' of Laestadians helps present the contrasting views as 'normal' and unproblematic. In the final section of the article we discuss the findings from the perspective of media and religion in a post-secular society, arguing that the media are today central to our understanding of religion, but at the same time shape religion in accordance with their own logics. We suggest that what is needed in order to understand how religion and groups such as the Laestadian revival movement are constructed in the media is religious media literacy.