The Brill Dictionary of Religion

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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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(1,594 words)

Author(s): Mohr, Hubert
1. Machines (from the Doric Gk. machaná, or Attic mechané), are gears with movable parts serving for a power transfer. Normally, they stand in a fixed location, although, as in the modern traffic system, they can be ‘self-moving’ (Gk., auto-; Lat., mobile); cf. ‘locomotive’ (Lat., locus, ‘place’; movére, ‘to move’). ‘Robots’ (from the Czech robota, ‘compulsory labor,’ ‘drudgery’) and ‘automatic’ machines (from Gk., autómatos, ‘self-’) comprise the core of modern technology: without them, the global → industrialization of the economy and the mechanization of…

Machu Picchu/Cuzco

(1,016 words)

Author(s): Lange, Christian
1. The capital of the extinct Inca Empire, Cuzco, lies 3,326 m above sea level, in the southern Andes of Peru. Since the invasion of Spanish mercenaries under the leadership of Francisco Pizarro in 1532, and the ensuing colonization by European powers, the plundered city continuously waned in importance. Today, however, with some 300,000 inhabitants, it is rising to the status of an important center of trade and tourism. In its vicinity, accessible by train, lie the ruins of the Inca temple-city Machu Picchu. Cuzco—the City 2. a) Cuzco was both the strategic and political center …


(153 words)

Author(s): Bernard, Jutta
The microcosm/macrocosm analogy regards the human being as a ‘little world’ and as an image of the ‘big world’ (the cosmos) that stands in relationship with it or is influenced by it (thus, by way of example, that certain constellations of stars determine human destiny; → Astrology). Various religions, and Weltanschauung traditions, host a conception of these chains of laws: by way of example, in → Buddhism and → Lamaism they are present in the correspondences of the cosmos or stars and the energy channels in the human body; they also prevail i…


(3,223 words)

Author(s): Pasi, Marco
Origins of the Term ‘Magic’ The term “magic” has served to indicate, in the history of Western culture, a variety of ideas and of practices, often related to religion and/or science. Consequently, the term has been historically defined and understood in many different ways, according to the context in which it has been used. The ancient Greek term mageía, which is at the origin of all modern words related to ‘magic,’ had a Persian origin, and served to indicate, since its adoption by Greek culture, religious activities considered to be exotic, unsancti…


(441 words)

Author(s): Schweer, Thomas
1. In its general meaning, a mandala is a circle that divides a sacred place from the profane sphere. In Tibetan Buddhism (→ Lamaism), the concept designates a diagram bringing central doctrinal content to graphic expression, and serving as an aid for meditation. Through the aspects of a mandala, viewers may recall their religious tradition, and have practical meditation experiences as well. The basic form of the mandala consists in a concentric arrangement of circles and squares, together yielding a symmetrical, closed area. It represents a two-dimensiona…


(1,143 words)

Author(s): Hutter, Manfred
1. Manichaeism is a vanished world religion that once extended from Western Europe to China. Often simplistically attached to ‘Gnosis’ (→ Gnosticism), Manichaeism was a major threat to the early Christian church, and many misrepresentations are the result of interreligious conflicts. The dark ‘Manichean vision of the world,’ for instance, is a travesty concocted by the religion's conquerors, who themselves received more from it than they admitted. Mani 2. a) Although Manicheans themselves referred to their ‘church’ (Gk, ekklesia) as “Religion of Light,” as ‘Manichaeism’ t…


(298 words)

Author(s): Gengnagel, Jörg
The word mantra (Skt., literally, ‘thinking tool’) stands for a multiplicity of formulaic linguistic expressions. In the Indian tradition, ‘mantra’ means, first, both the whole and the individual verses and hymns of the Vedic text-collections. Influenced by originally unwritten or oral traditions, belief in the power of the spoken word and its direct effectiveness is decisive for the meaning and function of the mantras. In the Hindu religions, along with Vedic mantras, mantras of other religious t…

Mao, Cult of

(1,267 words)

Author(s): Bumbacher, Stephan Peter
‘Cult of Mao’ designates the personal cult or veneration (→ Veneration of Persons/Personality Cult) of revolutionary fighter and Chairman of the Chinese Communist Party Mao Zedong (Mao Tse-tung; 1893–1976). This cult can be divided into two phases: the one practiced during Mao's lifetime, and the one that developed after his death. Folk Veneration and Formation of the Cult of Mao after his Death 1. Near the beginning of 1989, a ‘movement’ began in South China that quickly spread to the North, and within a few months embraced practically all → China. It is s…


(526 words)

Author(s): Auffarth, Christoph
Marginality is a sociological term used to designate persons who live on the periphery of society as opposed to those who take up the central role in a society, enjoying particular privileges and access to power and influence from which marginalized persons or groups are excluded. The most influential segment of a society is not necessarily the same as the majority, nor do marginalized groups necessarily correspond to demographic minorities (e.g. blacks in the Antebellum South constituted the ma…


(4,299 words)

Author(s): Walther, Wiebke
1. Matrimony, as a bond between one husband and one wife (monogamy), one husband and several wives (polygamy—more specifically, polygyny), or, rarely, one wife and a number of husbands (polyandry), has always reflected the religious and social norms of its respective societies, usually together with their social classes. Sociologically, a distinction is made between endogamy (marriage within a family or group) and exogamy (marriage beyond these bounds). Homogamy is matrimony within the same social class, which for women of noble families can …

Martial Arts

(1,166 words)

Author(s): Schaefer, Michael
1. Martial arts, today's generic name for an entire series of Far Eastern disciplines, are centuries old in their origin, and in China and Japan were an important aspect of a comprehensive and transcendent vision of human development. Originally, it was a matter of techniques (in Jap., jutsu) of the duel and self-defense, unarmed, as some form of chi gong (in China, something like ‘elaborating of energy,’ a fundamental, multiplex system of bodily-spiritual exercises), such as kung-fu (properly shaolin-chuan, a fisticuffs developed by monks of the Shaolin monastery), jiu-jitsu, kara…


(1,276 words)

Author(s): Preißler, Holger
Concept 1. The expression ‘martyr’ (from the Greek mártys, ‘witness’) denotes a person who consciously accepts death for his or her religious position and religious community, and who, after death, receives privileges, becoming also a role model for those who remain behind. The concept is familiar to Jews, Christians, and Muslims, and to other religions too—one need only recall the self-immolation of Buddhist monks during the Vietnam War. In a broader sense, as well as a secularized one, victims of poli…


(372 words)

Author(s): Kehrer, Günter
The concept of Marxism gained currency in the last quarter of the nineteenth century, and stands for the theoretical variant and the political variant of the socialist movement originating principally with the efforts of Karl Marx (1818–1883) and Friedrich Engels (1820–1895). The Second Communist International (and after 1917, the Communist Party oriented to the Russian, and later to the Soviet Communist party) understood themselves explicitly as Marxist. Then the non-Marxist variants of the concep…


(1,631 words)

Author(s): Schmolze, Martin
1. Mary, the mother of Jesus, represents a central figure in Catholic theology and practice of piety. Veneration of Mary as the Madonna emerges from mutually independent cultural horizons, in Poland (pilgrimage to Czestohowa/Czenstochau; → Orthodox Churches), and in Italy (→ Mediterranean Region). Presented as of great importance, but nearly always with reference to her Son, she meets with great reverence in the Eastern and Southern European Orthodox Churches. Finally, she is only a peripheral figure for the Protestant Churches (and Islam). 2. The Catholic Church hierarchy—for …


(1,548 words)

Author(s): Naacke, Claudia
1. The mask is a means of temporary alteration of the physical appearance. It is especially the ‘look’ of the face, as a projecting mark of the human being's identity, which can be altered or hidden by masquerade. Thus, pleasure and vice are flaunted by masquerade, as at → Carnival; at the same time, masks serve as a means of the presentation of identities and events (→ Drama [Sacred]). Different views prevail on the question of how masquerade should ultimately be conceived. For some, the mask i…


(2,044 words)

Author(s): Mohr, Hubert
Human Beings in Crowds and Masses 1. ‘Mass,’ like ‘crowd,’ means first of all a multitude of persons. ‘Mass,’ however, goes beyond ‘crowd,’ and denotes a ‘perceptual’ form of crowd, special from without as from within: a multitude arising and understood politically, religiously, or aesthetically, as an independent social condition of aggregate. This aggregate is not defined in terms of an absolute number: the community of believers itself, in its → architecture, is a (prayer) mass. Human masses make t…


(1,193 words)

Author(s): von Somm, Christian
Concept 1. A person (who may be invested with a priestly function, but who often stands in competition with the latter) becomes a master (Lat., magister, ‘director,’ ‘teacher,’ ‘leader’), in the sense of a religious teacher, (1) in the context of a determinate religious tradition, (2) for one or more other persons ( pupils), (3) when the latter ascribe him a religious authority and an adequate preparation for teaching and (4) the person in question accepts the role or already professes it. “The relationship of master to pupil is deemed to obtain w…


(751 words)

Author(s): Mohr, Hubert
Along with the statues, apparatus, and special attire of worship, material is an important, if often little noticed, component of worship and ritual. Material used in worship can be made of inorganic matter and products as well as organic ones, which find application within ritual activities. It is applied as sacrificial material, when entrails are burned in honor of the gods, or flowers are placed on graves for ancestors; as means of purification, when the body is cleansed before prayer with water or refined aromatic oils, sand, or even bare stones; as means of painting or marking, when, …


(1,495 words)

Author(s): Schenkluhn, Angela
1. The question of gender difference (→ Gender Stereotypes), raised once more in the 1970s by the new women's movement, has kindled a discussion of possibilities for a social order outside patriarchal power relationships, and for a peaceable, control-free cohabitation of the sexes. Many women lack female models and figures of identification. In order to counter this ‘lack of tradition,’ historical models were sought. The concept of the matriarchy was promptly introduced, with an appeal to Basle …


(3,296 words)

Author(s): Gladigow, Burkhard
1. “One who asks the meaning of life is sick,” wrote Sigmund Freud in 1937 in a letter to Marie Bonaparte. Viktor Frankl's later response is, “One who does not ask the meaning of life gets sick.”1 Behind these two neat accentuations stands—among other things—the question of the transition from an unquestioning consciousness of a meaningful and meaning-filled life, to its crisis-attended questioning. The historical locus of the question of the ‘meaning of life’ can be broadly defined in terms of two modern conditions. The one is gr…
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