By Harvey Whitehouse
Via a detailed exam of 4 Melanesian non secular traditions, Whitehouse identifies a suite of recurrent interconnections among forms of non secular transmission, structures of reminiscence, and styles of political organization. He argues that those interconnections could make clear quite a few normal difficulties in background, archaeology, and social concept.
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Extra info for Arguments and Icons: Divergent Modes of Religiosity
The written instructions to Hernandez made the purpose of his visit clear: ‘to gather facts from all physicians, surgeons, Spanish and native herbalists, and other inquisitive persons with such abilities who can possibly know something, and, in general, obtain an account of all medical herbs, trees, plants, and seeds that exist in a given place’—the place was originally within a radius of fifteen miles of Mexico City, but in the event his travels took him farther afield (Risse 1987:31, 43). According to one recent authority, Hernandez’s task was monumental—the medicinal flora of Mexico at the time has been estimated at 5,000 plants (Risse 1984:35).
There Europeans encountered a world of flora (and fauna and indigenous peoples) that was utterly puzzling (Elliott 1972; Ryan 1981; Greenblatt 1991; Sauer 1976: 815). In the first half century of exploration few learned men crossed the ocean to report on the plant world; their understanding and perceptions were drawn largely from accounts offered to them by explorers, administrators, ships’ captains and sailors (Talbot 1976:834–5, 838). In vain early botanists searched through the classical literature hoping to match the received descriptions with the written word (Sauer 1976:823).
In much the same way as hallucinogenic plants were differentiated by use in cultural rites previously described in this chapter, they had specific uses in medicine. Datura and ayahuasca, for example, produced very different hallucinatory experiences and contributed to different kinds of healing programmes: the former as a diagnostic tool for prescribing remedies and the latter for identifying ill-doers (Dobkin de Rios 1984b: 38–42). It is also true that shamans made use of whatever hallucinogenic plants were at hand, a shaman in the Brazilian rain forest having access to different plants than his/her counterpart in northern Canada.
Arguments and Icons: Divergent Modes of Religiosity by Harvey Whitehouse