Theology World Religions Vocabulary

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Indigenous Religions
Complementary dualism –the concept that the universe contains life enhancing and life-diminishing forces that work together and are equally necessary to its survival.

Conflict dualism – the concept that the universe contains good and evil forces that are wholly separate and in constant opposition.

Dogon – a member of a group of indigenous people of the mountains of central Mali.

Ghost dance - a group dance of a late 19th century American Indian (Iroquois) messianic cult believed to promote the return of the dead and the restoration of traditional ways of life.

Mana – a Melanesian term for a life-enhancing power that can be concentrated in people or objects.

Oral traditions – narratives, myths, histories, legends, fables, proverbs, and riddles that are transmitted verbally from generation to generation within a community and are seen as authoritative sources of knowledge.

Shaman – a ritual specialist trained in the use of visions, ecstatic trances, and out-of-body travel to communicate with the gods on behalf of the community; the term was borrowed from the Tungus people of Siberia.

Sun dance – one of the most important rituals of people of the Great Plains and northern Rockies.

Syncretism – the blending of elements from two or more religious traditions; use of the term is often negative, suggesting contamination of a “pure” religion under the influence of a different tradition.

Revitalization movements – a religious movement sparked by a social crisis, which seeks to reform and give new life to a particular tradition.

Taboo – a Polynesian term for an action or object that is prohibited; any violation of a taboo is believed to have dire spiritual consequences.

Totem – an Ojibwa term for an animal that is believed to share a spiritual connection with a particular clan or lineage.

Yoruba – a West African ethnic group, one of the largest on the continent; because a large proportion of the slaves sent to the Americans were Yoruba, their traditions had the most visible influence on the religions of the African Diaspora.

Judaism
Apocalypse – from the Greek for “unveiling”; the final battle between the forces of darkness and light expects at the end of time.

Ashkenazi – Jews of northern and eastern Europe.

Bar Mitzvah – “Son of the commandments”; the title given to a thirteen-year-old boy when he is initiated into adult ritual responsibilities; some branches of Judaism also celebrate a Bat Mitzvah for girls.

Diaspora – “Dispersal”, the Jewish world outside the land of ancient Israel; it began with the Babylon Exile, from which not all Jews returned.

Exile – the deportation of Jewish leaders from Jerusalem to Mesopotamia by the conquering Babylonians in 586 BCE; disrupting local Israelite politics, rituals, and agricultural institutions, it marks the transition from Israelite religion to Judaism.

Exodus – the migration of Hebrews from Egypt under the leadership of Moses, later understood to mark the birth of the Israelite nation.

Hasidim/Hasidic – “pious ones”; the mystically inclined followers of the Baal Shem Tov in eighteenth-century Poland and their descendants.

Holocaust – “Burnt offering” or “burnt sacrifice”; one of the ancient sacrifices mandated in the Hebrew Bible.

Kabbalah – the medieval Jewish mystical tradition; its central text is a commentary on scripture called the Zohar.

Kosher – term for food that is ritually acceptable, indicating that all rabbinic regulations regarding animal slaughter, etc., have been observed in its preparation.

Masada – the fortress whose Jewish defenders are said to have committed suicide rather then surrender to Rome.

Menorah – the seven-branched candlestick, a Jewish symbol since ancient times; a nine-branched menorah is used at Hanukkah.

Mishnah – the Hebrew summary of the oral law–inherited from the Pharisees and ascribed to Moses–arranged by topic; edited by Rabbi Judah ha-Nasi before 220...
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