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Thread: About This Forum: Social Sciences, Moral and Religious

  1. #21
    Council Member wm's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by Rob Thornton View Post
    I was reading allot of Rilke back then too

    Best, Rob
    That certainly explains a lot, Rob--Happy New Year and Decade
    Vir prudens non contra ventum mingit
    The greatest educational dogma is also its greatest fallacy: the belief that what must be learned can necessarily be taught. Sydney J. Harris

  2. #22
    Council Member Beelzebubalicious's Avatar
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    When I see stories like this (http://news.bbc.co.uk/2/hi/programme...ht/8441813.stm)
    I find it hard to understand from a cultural (or a relativist) point of view. Beyond the obvious reactions, I'm always intrigued by how pervasive the belief in spirits and the spirit world is in some countries, even in this "modern" world.

  3. #23
    Council Member marct's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by Beelzebubalicious View Post
    When I see stories like this (http://news.bbc.co.uk/2/hi/programme...ht/8441813.stm)
    I find it hard to understand from a cultural (or a relativist) point of view. Beyond the obvious reactions, I'm always intrigued by how pervasive the belief in spirits and the spirit world is in some countries, even in this "modern" world.
    Much as I hate to say it, I find it perfectly understandable. One of the things to remember is that "witch doctors", which is a really lousy translation, have traditionally focused on breaking spells and identifying who cast them originally. These people sound more like "sorcerers" that "witch doctors".

    Having said that, let me also note that belief in various and sundry "spirit" entities, and the willingness to use rituals based on them, increases during times of social upheavals and social strain. Back in the late 1980's, by way of example, there was a sorcerer operating out of Montreal who charged his clients $2000 per ritual; usually related to economic gain / stability. Another, more "mainstream" example, shows up in the Christian "Prosperity Movement".

    BB, I'm not sure you would like what happened to your mind if you could get into the headspace to understand this sort of thing. Speaking from too much personal experience, it can have a very strange effect on your thinking !

    Cheers,

    Marc
    Sic Bisquitus Disintegrat...
    Marc W.D. Tyrrell, Ph.D.
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  4. #24
    Council Member Beelzebubalicious's Avatar
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    I know what you mean. Happens when I spend too much time with my kids. I lose my ability to make adult decisions. My wife suspects I'm really still a child, but the truth is that I have become compromised by their mindset (if you can call it that).

  5. #25
    Council Member marct's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by Beelzebubalicious View Post
    I know what you mean. Happens when I spend too much time with my kids. I lose my ability to make adult decisions. My wife suspects I'm really still a child, but the truth is that I have become compromised by their mindset (if you can call it that).
    LOL - As a note, your original post got me going on a bit of a rant on the topic.

    Cheers,

    Marc
    Sic Bisquitus Disintegrat...
    Marc W.D. Tyrrell, Ph.D.
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  6. #26
    Council Member Beelzebubalicious's Avatar
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    Marc, I replied to you over in harmonium. We'll see if that stirs the pot a little! A little cross-fertilization is always good.

    In relation to your statement above, I also note here the quote from the report:

    The Ugandan government told us that human sacrifice is on the increase, and according to the head of the country's Anti-Human Sacrifice Taskforce the crime is directly linked to rising levels of development and prosperity, and an increasing belief that witchcraft can help people get rich quickly.
    The assumption is that such extreme measures are taken in times of desperation, but this appears to contradict this assumption and imply that perhaps people are getting rich precisely b/c they have made these sacrifices and that's why the rate of human sacrifice is increasing.

  7. #27
    Council Member marct's Avatar
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    Hi BB,

    Quote Originally Posted by Beelzebubalicious View Post
    Marc, I replied to you over in harmonium. We'll see if that stirs the pot a little! A little cross-fertilization is always good.
    True - I replied to your reply as well.....

    Quote Originally Posted by Beelzebubalicious View Post
    The assumption is that such extreme measures are taken in times of desperation, but this appears to contradict this assumption and imply that perhaps people are getting rich precisely b/c they have made these sacrifices and that's why the rate of human sacrifice is increasing.
    Personally, I think they are either misusing the term "witchcraft" in place of "sorcery" or they have missed the boat. Both can rise during times of social strain, and I suspect that both are on the rise in Uganda. Witchcraft, and witch doctors (finders, etc.) tend to rise when individuals perceive that they have suffered a relative misfortune, while sorcery tends to rise when people feel that they are not getting what they could / should out of current opportunities.

    The assumption about the efficacy of the sacrifices is the key point to actually stopping them. Unfortunately, it is insanely easy (well, relatively speaking), to reconfigure a general belief in "magic", loosely construed, into the practice of blood magic in one form or another. What is much harder is stomping it out. By way of example, consider the Thugee cult in India during the 19th century...
    Sic Bisquitus Disintegrat...
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  8. #28
    Council Member Tom OC's Avatar
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    Default Child Sacrifice

    Marc, I don't think the practice of witchcraft/sorcery, in the context of ritual child sacrifice, has got anything to do with social stress or social strain at all. Infanticide, maybe, because certainly exogenous social shocks to the system create sociogenic forces which cause crime. But, the ritual practice of killing kids to appease spirits comes endogenously (from the other direction). The idea that when one is unhappy with their station in life, one should sacrifice a child in hopes of a better, wealthier future doesn't correlate with any known system stressors that I know of, except maybe demographic pressures. The belief system is a warped kind of theodicy where the thinking goes like this: if I make the ultimate sacrifice, I may be better off. There are indeed certain rituals with social structural links like this, but child sacrifice isn't one of them. I'm going to have to go with this just being a psychologically twisted kind of crime on this one.

  9. #29
    Council Member marct's Avatar
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    Hi Tom,

    Long time no chat! Glad to see you back here posting again.

    Quote Originally Posted by Tom OC View Post
    Marc, I don't think the practice of witchcraft/sorcery, in the context of ritual child sacrifice, has got anything to do with social stress or social strain at all. Infanticide, maybe, because certainly exogenous social shocks to the system create sociogenic forces which cause crime. But, the ritual practice of killing kids to appease spirits comes endogenously (from the other direction).
    Of course the impetus is endogenous, or at least the symbol system supporting such sacrifices is. Don't forget that a lot of social strain is also endogenous as well. There's a couple of points I want to raise here. First, that one article doesn't really give us much of a clue as to the symbolic structure of the sacrifice system they are using. From the little data in the article, it appears to be some form of classic "blood pact" sacrifice, but that could be an artifact of the churches being involved (consider, by way of example, a similar craze that "happened" in North America; cf The Satanism Scare by Bromley, Best and Richardson). Outside of the lack of symbolic data, we don't know who the clients are, so motives can only be ascribed, which is also problematic.

    What might, and I emphasize "might", be happening is a con job using a syncretism of local magic practices tied in with the "dark side" of Christianity (NB: "Satanism", symbolically, is an integral part of Christianity). That is one plausible explanation. Another plausible one would be something along the lines of a larger version of the Adolfo Constanzo group / cult which, on the surface at least, appears to have truly believed in the efficacy of blood rituals.

    Quote Originally Posted by Tom OC View Post
    The idea that when one is unhappy with their station in life, one should sacrifice a child in hopes of a better, wealthier future doesn't correlate with any known system stressors that I know of, except maybe demographic pressures.
    Cosmological causality is the main one. Hmmm, let me give you an example of this. All cultures and societies operate on belief structures about how "reality" is structured and what causal linkages exist. And, while it is rare to find cultures that have a direct link of child sacrifice leads to prosperity, there are a few examples such as the Phonecians, Carthage (same culture group) and the Aztecs and their culture group. And yes, demographic pressure combined with high birth rates and exceedingly stratified societies are the main stressors.

    The few places where we see it happening not at a general cultural level, but as an inversion, tend to be periods of either high social stress and desperation (e.g. the Constanzo cult) or periods of high anomie (e.g. late 19th century France), or times where people believe they are being "tested" (e.g. GEN 22:1-24).

    Quote Originally Posted by Tom OC View Post
    The belief system is a warped kind of theodicy where the thinking goes like this: if I make the ultimate sacrifice, I may be better off.
    Oh, if my suspicions are correct, then it is indeed a warped theodicity. personally, my gut guess is that it is a syncretic front using primarily "Satanic" elements and symbolic logics.

    Quote Originally Posted by Tom OC View Post
    There are indeed certain rituals with social structural links like this, but child sacrifice isn't one of them. I'm going to have to go with this just being a psychologically twisted kind of crime on this one.
    Honestly, I don't have enough data to make even an argument from probability, so I'm (self)limited to ones of plausibility.

    Cheers,

    Marc
    Sic Bisquitus Disintegrat...
    Marc W.D. Tyrrell, Ph.D.
    Institute of Interdisciplinary Studies,
    Senior Research Fellow,
    The Canadian Centre for Intelligence and Security Studies, NPSIA
    Carleton University
    http://marctyrrell.com/

  10. #30
    Council Member Tom OC's Avatar
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    Default Con man syncretism

    It has indeed been awhile, Marc, and from my lurking here the last couple of years, it appears you're doing fine. We've been busy, rolling out new courses, hiring new faculty, holding symposiums, etc. Austin Peay is doing great. We'll have to get together again. Maybe our summer symposium on Indonesia. You may remember I did my dissertation fieldwork on Filipino terrorism. Did I every show you my collection of magic trinkets that ward off bullets? Anyway, I'd like to chat about your "con man syncretism" (for lack of a better term) idea. Basically, I agree that it's some kind of psycho-socio-religious hybrid crime, and I think we really need to develop some groundwork on such crimes. Can you SITREP me on relevant stuff already discussed? I've been doing most of my criminological research lately in the international human rights area (crimes against women and children), but these "magic man" con artists intrigue me in a riled up sort of way.
    Tom

  11. #31
    Council Member marct's Avatar
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    Hey Tom,

    Quote Originally Posted by Tom OC View Post
    It has indeed been awhile, Marc, and from my lurking here the last couple of years, it appears you're doing fine.
    Let's just say "it's been interesting" .

    Quote Originally Posted by Tom OC View Post
    We've been busy, rolling out new courses, hiring new faculty, holding symposiums, etc. Austin Peay is doing great.
    Excellent! I'm in the process of building several new courses myself which I will probably want to pick your brains about. More later on that one...

    Quote Originally Posted by Tom OC View Post
    We'll have to get together again. Maybe our summer symposium on Indonesia. You may remember I did my dissertation fieldwork on Filipino terrorism. Did I every show you my collection of magic trinkets that ward off bullets?
    Definitely a plan! I don't think I ever saw your collection, though. maybe next time I get down there. I have a few interesting "odds and ends" tucked away myself .

    Quote Originally Posted by Tom OC View Post
    Anyway, I'd like to chat about your "con man syncretism" (for lack of a better term) idea. Basically, I agree that it's some kind of psycho-socio-religious hybrid crime, and I think we really need to develop some groundwork on such crimes. Can you SITREP me on relevant stuff already discussed? I've been doing most of my criminological research lately in the international human rights area (crimes against women and children), but these "magic man" con artists intrigue me in a riled up sort of way.
    Not too much written on it, but I'll email you in the next few days. There's a lot of stuff on moral entrepreneurs, a bit of which, like the Satanism Scare, that is directly applicable. Most of the rest of it comes out of social history, the history of witchcraft, a bit of political science (e.g. witchcraft accusations in South Africa), folklore, etc. ad nauseum. It would probably be simpler for the two of us to just write a paper on it .

    Cheers,

    Marc
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    Marc W.D. Tyrrell, Ph.D.
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  12. #32
    Council Member davidbfpo's Avatar
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    Default Cross reference

    I have posted items on child sacrifice on another thread, on Uganda: http://council.smallwarsjournal.com/...?t=7483&page=3

    Just noted issue appeared here.
    davidbfpo

  13. #33
    Council Member marct's Avatar
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    Thanks, David
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  14. #34
    Council Member graphei's Avatar
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    I thought I'd throw my two pennies in about human sacrifice.

    One of my 'guilty' pleasures when it comes to research is Black/Practical/Popular magic. Why? For the simple reason you find out what people really desire in life. Yes, for communal events people will band together and pray for puppies, rainbows, and kittens, but that is only one side to the coin. As long as people have believed in something bigger and more powerful than themselves, people have been trying to harness that power for their own benefit. While you may see it surface more during times of distress or transition, it has been- and always will be, there.

    What is going in Uganda is unique because ~1% of the population practice indigenous religions. The rest overwhelmingly Christian (42% Catholic) with Muslims representing about 12%. I would be really interested to see if there is some kind of religious syncretism going on- similar to how Catholicism and African/Yoruba religion formed Vodou.


    Also, aside from the cultures that were mentioned there is evidence that human sacrifice was practiced by the Minoans on Crete, who had a heavy influence on the Greeks. A dig at Anemospilia had the body of a young man hog tied on what archaeologists believe was an altar with a bronze dagger lodged in his bones. Another dig at Knossos revealed the bones of children who had been slaughtered in a similar manner to sheep and goats. The bones were found in a building archaeologists have dubbed "North House" and I believe no other artifacts were found near the bones.

    In both the cases at Anemospilia and Knossos, archaeologists believe something ritualistic was going on, but why they were doing it is lost to the ages. We, from a 21st century perspective, would like to believe such events were to have an impact on events of cosmological importance, but in these cases, we simply have no religious records to go by.

  15. #35
    Council Member marct's Avatar
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    Hi Graphei,

    Quote Originally Posted by graphei View Post
    One of my 'guilty' pleasures when it comes to research is Black/Practical/Popular magic. Why? For the simple reason you find out what people really desire in life. Yes, for communal events people will band together and pray for puppies, rainbows, and kittens, but that is only one side to the coin. As long as people have believed in something bigger and more powerful than themselves, people have been trying to harness that power for their own benefit. While you may see it surface more during times of distress or transition, it has been- and always will be, there.
    Certainly some form of it at any rate .

    Quote Originally Posted by graphei View Post
    What is going in Uganda is unique because ~1% of the population practice indigenous religions. The rest overwhelmingly Christian (42% Catholic) with Muslims representing about 12%. I would be really interested to see if there is some kind of religious syncretism going on- similar to how Catholicism and African/Yoruba religion formed Vodou.
    I wouldn't be surprised in the least of there was a syncretic element going on. I've seen the official "belief" figures but, on the whole, that really doesn't say much about either actual belief or practice. 'sides that, there is certainly a long history of "magic" (please note, no "k" ) inside Christianity.

    Quote Originally Posted by graphei View Post
    Also, aside from the cultures that were mentioned there is evidence that human sacrifice was practiced by the Minoans on Crete, who had a heavy influence on the Greeks. A dig at Anemospilia had the body of a young man hog tied on what archaeologists believe was an altar with a bronze dagger lodged in his bones. Another dig at Knossos revealed the bones of children who had been slaughtered in a similar manner to sheep and goats. The bones were found in a building archaeologists have dubbed "North House" and I believe no other artifacts were found near the bones.
    I'd certainly like to see the references on the Anemospilia dig (I have them on the sacrifice chamber at Knossos). Some of that might have been part of the Sacred King mythos....

    Quote Originally Posted by graphei View Post
    In both the cases at Anemospilia and Knossos, archaeologists believe something ritualistic was going on, but why they were doing it is lost to the ages. We, from a 21st century perspective, would like to believe such events were to have an impact on events of cosmological importance, but in these cases, we simply have no religious records to go by.
    Not necessarily so, we do have inferential records so we can make arguments from plausibility. Carlo Ginzberg's Ecstacies is a good example of exactly that type of interpretation. Even when we have documentary records, there are always problems with them, usually problems of bias.

    Cheers,

    Marc
    Sic Bisquitus Disintegrat...
    Marc W.D. Tyrrell, Ph.D.
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  16. #36
    Council Member graphei's Avatar
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    I went digging through my database and the most recent book I found the sacrifice at Anemospilia is mentioned by Kyriakides in Ritual in Bronze Age Aegean: Minoan Peak Sanctuaries. Marinatos put out a book in the early 80s about Minoan sacrifice rituals that delves into it a bit more, if my memory serves me correctly. The going story seems to be that there was considerable seismic activity going on in the region, and a human sacrifice was a last ditch effort to please the gods. The boy (~18) on the altar was already dead and his blood being drained when an earthquake struck and the priest (mid-30s I believe) and priestess (early 20s) were killed. It's been awhile since I had free time to devote to my love of all things ancient (damn al-Qaeda ), so that story may have been revised.

    For me, the problem of using methods like those on cultures like the Minoans is this; we can't really read what they were writing down to check the interpretation against. Linear A is still a mystery and anything writing in Linear B has to do with goods- even 'cult' objects found in temples. So what if Fred from Hamlet B brought 3 goat skins of vino and it's inscribed on fork found in a temple? Classicists/Archaeologists believe the Greek chthonic goddesses are Minoan in descent, but can we really reverse engineer religious beliefs from 5th Century Athenians? I don't know. I don't mean to be argumentative. Maybe it's my evil, inner Classicist that is very skeptical.

    Anyway, I'm going to keep my eyes peeled for human sacrifices in Uganda. Might squeeze and article out of it someday...

  17. #37
    Council Member marct's Avatar
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    Hi Graphei,

    Thanks for the reference, i appreciate it. Now to find the time to track it down and actually read it ...

    Quote Originally Posted by graphei View Post
    For me, the problem of using methods like those on cultures like the Minoans is this; we can't really read what they were writing down to check the interpretation against. Linear A is still a mystery and anything writing in Linear B has to do with goods- even 'cult' objects found in temples. So what if Fred from Hamlet B brought 3 goat skins of vino and it's inscribed on fork found in a temple? Classicists/Archaeologists believe the Greek chthonic goddesses are Minoan in descent, but can we really reverse engineer religious beliefs from 5th Century Athenians? I don't know. I don't mean to be argumentative. Maybe it's my evil, inner Classicist that is very skeptical.
    Honestly, I don't know either . It's one of the reasons I like Ginzburg's approach; he doesn't say anything about "truth", just about plausibility. Admittedly, Linear B is pretty useless, but it does allow us to define the problem space better and let us disprove some hypotheses. then again, it's not often we find such great resources as the Pylos tablets....

    As far as reverse engineering religious beliefs is concerned, that is a real problem. Some of it we can do pretty well, at least in terms of shaping the problem space. Building the logic chains, however, is a real problem, especially since we aren't dealing with anything that is uniform at all.

    Like you, looking at Minoan (and earlier) religious systems is something I did a while back, and I haven't really kept up with what's coming out of archaeology in the area. It's one of those areas that I'd like to get back into - when I have 3-4 months of free time and don't have to earn a living .

    Cheers,

    Marc


    Quote Originally Posted by graphei View Post
    Anyway, I'm going to keep my eyes peeled for human sacrifices in Uganda. Might squeeze and article out of it someday...
    Sic Bisquitus Disintegrat...
    Marc W.D. Tyrrell, Ph.D.
    Institute of Interdisciplinary Studies,
    Senior Research Fellow,
    The Canadian Centre for Intelligence and Security Studies, NPSIA
    Carleton University
    http://marctyrrell.com/

  18. #38
    Council Member Beelzebubalicious's Avatar
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    Default chief culture officer

    Ran across this and thought I would post it for feedback. I also suspect that Grant McCracken and Marc are close friends. I mean, they are both Anthropologists and Canadian...

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    Council Member M-A Lagrange's Avatar
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    Default Small wars and human sacrifices

    Hello,

    Just have a look on The Mask of Anarchy from Stephen Ellis.(http://www.amazon.com/Mask-Anarchy-U...3506259&sr=1-1)
    Wonderfull book on Liberia and the role of canibalism into the construction of a society and how Taylor used it to destructure the society.
    Interresting and chilling. Personnaly I would call that the absolute war: a strategy that aim to use the worst darkest side of a society to destroy not only the cultural tissu but to destroy even the pillars of it.

    M-A

  20. #40
    Council Member marct's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by Beelzebubalicious View Post
    Ran across this and thought I would post it for feedback. I also suspect that Grant McCracken and Marc are close friends. I mean, they are both Anthropologists and Canadian...
    All I can say is ..... .

    Oh, yeah,..... "No Comment".
    Sic Bisquitus Disintegrat...
    Marc W.D. Tyrrell, Ph.D.
    Institute of Interdisciplinary Studies,
    Senior Research Fellow,
    The Canadian Centre for Intelligence and Security Studies, NPSIA
    Carleton University
    http://marctyrrell.com/

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