The Brill Dictionary of Religion

Get access Subject: Religious Studies
Edited by: Kocku von Stuckrad

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The impressively comprehensive Brill Dictionary of Religion (BDR) Online addresses religion as an element of daily life and public discourse, is richly illustrated and with more than 500 entries, the Brill Dictionary of Religion Online is a multi-media reference source on the many and various forms of religious commitment. The Brill Dictionary of Religion Online addresses the different theologies and doctrinal declarations of the official institutionalized religions and gives equal weight and consideration to a multiplicity of other religious phenomena. The Brill Dictionary of Religion Online helps map out and define the networks and connections created by various religions in contemporary societies, and provides models for understanding these complex phenomena.

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(2,269 words)

Author(s): Walther, Wiebke
Genre and History 1. Literary scholars designate narratives of popular origin containing elements of the wondrous and supernatural as ‘folktales’ or ‘fairytales.’ Anthropologists often use the same term to designate all oral narrative (→ Oral Tradition). While fairytales of popular origin are always anonymous, literary fairytales, which have appeared in Europe since the Rococo, have authors. Originally, fairytales and folktales were stories recounted freely to an adult audience by a storyteller, usually based on well-known motifs and materials, geare…

Family Cult (Greek and Roman)

(311 words)

Author(s): Tepper, Leo
A family cult stands in a special relationship with a unit of kinship (Lat., gens). In practicing the cult, the kinship group presents itself as a unit, both to those within and those without. The concept comes from early Roman religion, where it stood for two kinds of cult: (1) a family can be responsible for the maintenance of a particular cult of general interest ( sacra publica; Lat., ‘popular rite’). Thus, in Rome, the cult of the Sol (sun) was in the hands of the gens Aurelia. When this gens died out, the state took responsibility for the cult. Later, almost all such family cul…


(3,584 words)

Author(s): Tepper, Leo
Christian Model of the Family 1. a) The traditional model of the family is in the process of dissolution. The churches, and religious traditions, were once transmitted through the celebration of the feasts of the course of life; both are now crumbling away. The family model of European history of religion, however, is not ‘normal,’ but formed by the Christian religion. In late antiquity, as Christianity became the prevailing religion, basic changes occurred as to who might found a family with whom. O…


(309 words)

Author(s): Bernhardt, Reinhold
Most often, ‘fanaticism’ is a pejorative designation applied to others. Especially since the Enlightenment, it has become a polemical stereotyping and defamation of the person thus represented. Too often, the criticism being leveled would suit the person(s) making the criticism as well. Unlike the historical denotations of the term—which is derived from fanum (Lat., ‘sacred precinct’), and was applied in Christian antiquity to any of various enthusiastic, non-Christian forms of religion, and then, in the post-Reformation era, to ‘delusory’ piety—…

Fantasy, Genre

(996 words)

Author(s): Hammer, Almuth | Schilken, Dörthe
Concept 1. ‘Fantasy’ can denote a not unambiguously defined part of the ‘fantastic’ Western literature of the nineteenth and twentieth centuries. Typical of this fantasy as a genre is a break with the continuity of the reader's reality, to which, unlike the case of → science fiction, no scientific grounding is normally supplied. It manifests itself in the sketch of an independent world closed up in itself with alien life forms (dwarfs, dragons), the preternatural (→ Magic), a peculiar cosmology a…


(2,017 words)

Author(s): Görnitz, Brigitte
1. ‘Fantasy’ (Gk., phantasia, from phainomai, ‘appear’) in the sense of imagination (Lat., imagin-, ‘picture,’ ‘image’; → Social Myths and Fantasy Images) usually denotes the power of conceptualization or mental representation. Fantasy as a cognitive faculty was first described theoretically in the epistemology of the ancient Stoa—as the content of an imagined world (Gk., phantastón), or else in the sense of the creative activity that brings this content ( phantastikón) to life. Fantasies are first formed intrapsychically, by way of play of thought, association, …


(450 words)

Author(s): von Braun, Christina
Traditional fasting practices are to be found in nearly all religions. In many tribal cultures, fasting is practiced before hunting, to avert natural catastrophes (solar eclipses, storms), before a battle, or as a sign of mourning. Fasting is generally regarded as a means of repelling insalubrious powers, or ‘evil,’ or of calling upon the good powers. It is practiced before the celebration of rites of initiation, as part of a fertility rite, or for the observance of the new year. In literate cul…


(322 words)

Author(s): Walther, Wiebke
The word ‘fatalism,’ derived from the Latin fatum (‘saying,’ ‘dictum of the gods’) denotes the belief that a higher power determines the inevitability of human ‘destiny,’ often enough blindly, and the consequent challenge of loyalty to that destiny. In Greek and particularly Roman antiquity, the concept of fatum was combined with the philosophical and religious idea of Heimarmenê and Tuchê (→ Destiny/Fate). Jewish and Christian philosophers and theologians generally stress human responsibility for human activity. In the Qur'an, God's determination is of…


(650 words)

Author(s): Kuske, Silvia
Islamic law knows various possibilities when it comes to legal determinations. One of them, permitted and customary in all schools of law, is the finding of a fatwa, an opinion of counsel, (nearly always) on religious, ethical, or juridical questions. The lawyers (scholars of the law) who are called muftis, or, in the Shia, the mujtahids are those authorized to make a fatwa. When a person or institution confronts a lawyer with a question upon which no legal determination has as yet been pronounc…


(1,660 words)

Author(s): Dinzelbacher, Peter
Main Themes 1. In the life of adults of the Western culture of the present, religious fears generally carry no weight. More impressive seems an unspecified ‘fear of existence,’ or Weltangst. Ultimately, a fear of death, however unconscious, underlies this feeling, along with, doubtless, the awe before an essence that inspires reverence or dread, a numen, or mysterium tremendum (Rudolf Otto; → Holy). Furthermore, the arousal of fear no longer figures among the pastoral concerns of the Christian churches, so that fear can readily be undervalued as an imp…

Feasts and Celebrations

(2,418 words)

Author(s): Gronover, Annemarie
Meaning and Function 1. Holidays (cf. ‘holy day’) or feast/festivals (Lat., festum) have at least two peculiarities. For one, they are established in religious, cultural, and social frameworks as repeatable happenings; for another, on their occasion, persons are spontaneously inclined to gather in gladsome social celebration. In the festivity itself, an ebullient zest for life is the hallmark, and pleasing sensory events (festive meal, play, dance) set the tone. The holiday is a corporative event, to be ce…

Festivals of Theravada Buddhism

(1,085 words)

Author(s): Holzapfel, Kirsten
Calendar: The festival year is orientated to the solar year and to lunar calendars, with regionally distinct names for the months. Feast days are determined by the phases of the moon, and fall on different dates from year to year, although they are celebrated in the same seasons. a) Regular festival days: • Bi-weekly, at the full moon and new moon, the recitation of the Patimokkha. At a celebration for the confession of sins, the ordained recite the Rule of the Order (not universally practiced). • Full moon, new moon, and days of the first and fourth quarter moons: Uposatha Days. For the laity,…


(1,031 words)

Author(s): Guzy, Lidia
Problems of the Concept 1. a) Belief in an object with supernatural powers of spell or enchantment, or in an object whose mysterious workings are venerated in cult—with blood sacrifice, for example—is often designated ‘fetishism.’ This notion must be applied with great caution, however—contrary to the general notion that they designate phenomena, they are in fact foreign explanatory constructs applied to misunderstood cultural systems. b) The use of the term ‘fetish,’ as a category for other systems of symbolical reference, began in 1481 with the Portuguese …