The Brill Dictionary of Religion

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

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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(899 words)

Author(s): Auffarth, Christoph
In order that a gift may be offered in such a way that no others may use it for themselves, but rather be given—as a rule—to a god, a holy place is required. Normally the place is an elevated one, so that it can display the offering to the eyes of all. It may be a rock, for example, or a board or slab, or an arrangement of stones. Altars erected by the Greeks for their animal sacrifices stood outside the temple. They had to stretch far enough to accommodate a hundred beasts at once on the occasi…


(1,125 words)

Author(s): Walde, Christine
Myth and Fantasy 1. Rarely has an ancient myth fired the fantasy as has that of the Amazons. Those warlike women, men's equals, even play a key part in modern discussions of gender roles, which of course fails to do justice to their significance in the framework of Greek culture. The Amazon people, descended of Ares, god of war, and the nymph Harmonia, constitute in a number of respects a ‘nonsociety’: one either made up of women alone or at all events dominated by women. They perform activities ot…


(353 words)

Author(s): Hutter, Manfred
By way of the French or the Italian, the words ‘amulet’ (Arab., hammālāt, ‘necklace’) and ‘talisman’ (arab., tilsamān, ‘magical images’) were adopted in European languages in the sixteenth and seventeenth centuries. The character of the amulet tends rather to be protective and resistant (apotropaic), while that of the talisman is more positive and fortifying. The quality of an amulet, to be sure, depends on the ‘material’ (precious stones, noble metals, rare minerals, or striking appearance), but such quality is…


(1,132 words)

Author(s): Bröckling, Ulrich
Rule without State 1. Walter Benjamin's celebrated statement—that there has been no radical concept of freedom in Europe since Bakunin (1814–1876)—goes to the heart of anarchistic theory and praxis: anarchism is a freedom movement. Its goal is social order without the rule of human beings by human beings. Like the other revolutionary currents of the nineteenth and twentieth century, anarchism, too, seized on the emancipation of the middle class and the thinking of the Enlightenment, and proposed t…


(1,032 words)

Author(s): Guzy, Lidia
Ancestors as Culture-Specific Figures 1. Ancestors are figures of immortality, specific to a given culture, who stand in a strong, identity-bestowing relationship to an individual and/or group. They may be ‘mighty,’ deceased, direct relatives, now reverenced and remembered by a family in ancestor worship. But they may also be personalities of high status (such as rulers) who are important to the community and whose veneration is characterized by periodically recurring rituals. A conceptualization of…

Ancient East

(1,250 words)

Author(s): Pongratz-Leisten, Beate
1. a) In extensive parts of the East, in the ‘Fertile Crescent,’ just enough rain falls for farming. By contrast, the culture of the Mesopotamian lowlands relies on a supraregional irrigation system. This achievement of civilization is fundamental to the Mesopotamian worldview. Still, it places laborers and planners in a class society that must be controlled by a (city) kingdom. Creation narratives, then, are not by and large accounts of first beginnings; instead, they establish the prevailing order and permanent relations of…


(1,254 words)

Author(s): Ahn, Gregor
Rush of Angels Today 1. Despite the extensive loss of importance and meaning that marks the overall situation of Christian piety in post-war Europe, angels have anything but fallen out of fashion. In secular and neo-religious contexts, representations of angels have been the subject of an extraordinary renaissance. Independently of church traditions, and to some extent in direct competition with them, a significant ‘reception’ has occurred of the notion of the angel as a benign, efficacious manifest…

Animal I: Hunting Societies

(1,571 words)

Author(s): Drexler, Josef
1. In the way of life maintained in hunting societies, which owe their economic support to the activities of the women who gather wild fruit, roots, and so on, as well as to the male hunt for wild beasts, animals occupy a most important position. Here, hunting is not just a way of securing the wherewithal for nutrition; it is bound up with religious concepts, as well. Despite the unquestionable multiplicity and variety of the religious notions characterizing the hunting cultures, certain general, basic attitudes can be attributed to them. Notions of Human Being and Animal 2. As a western o…

Animal II: World Religions

(4,043 words)

Author(s): Holzapfel, Kirsten
Relation of the Animal to the Human Being 1. The relation of the human being to the animal is ambivalent. Animals are both superior to human beings, and inferior; they are endowed with human capacities, yet remain foreign to human nature. Like human beings, and yet unlike them, animals receive a place in belief and ritual, and are part of a world of religious conceptions. Since the development of an asymmetrical relation between animals and persons in the course of history, the commonalities and distinc…


(402 words)

Author(s): Schlatter, Gerhard
The concept and theory of ‘animism’ are linked to the name of religious anthropologist Edward B. Tylor (1832–1917), who, in his Primitive Culture (1871), thus designated any belief in the ensoulment of nature and the existence of spirits. Tylor sought to answer the question of how human beings came to develop the concept of a ‘soul.’ He supposed that the religious conceptualizations of the primitives had their origins in dreams or hallucinations, through which they must have arrived at the conviction of having an alter ego, a ‘second I.’ The latter departs from the body in sleep…


(488 words)

Author(s): Hack, Achim
The expression “Antichrist” (Gk., ‘Counter-Anointed’) occurs in the Bible only five times, and exclusively in the two Letters of John (see 1 John 2:18 and 22, 4:3; 2 John 7). There it denotes enemies (plural!) who deny that Christ is the Messiah, or indeed that he ever lived. From there the concept was set in connection with other biblical loci that make the Antichrist (singular), as the devil, Christ's all but equal adversary in the universal combat to be waged at the end of the world. What the very different concepts of the Antichrist hold in common is opposition to Christ. Thu…

Anti-Cult Movements

(1,065 words)

Author(s): Hjelm, Titus
The anti-cult movement was born as a reaction to the rise of new religious movements (also known as cults; New Religions) in the United States in the early 1970's. The initiators of the movement were parents concerned about their children joining non-conventional religious groups. The movement remained local at least until the events in Jonestown, Guyana, where in 1978 a new religious group called The People's Temple committed a widely publicized mass suicide. After these events the largest national anti-cult or…


(4,038 words)

Author(s): Auffarth, Christoph
Biases of periodization 1. a) The Protestant humanists accustomed us to a tripartition of history: geographically into old world, new world, and third world; and historically into antiquity, Middle Ages, and modernity.1 This determination also provides a help in practical ordering, especially in our method of counting by centuries ( saecula), as it expresses an assessment of our times. Our enumeration of centuries begins with the ‘birth of Christ,’ runs forward and backward, and, with ‘new world’—or ‘new age’—indicates the hope of an era ‘accor…

Antiquity: Festival Cycles

(1,798 words)

Author(s): Mohr, Hubert
a) Festival Cycle of the Greek Religion: Example of Athens b) Festal Cycle of the Roman Religion Carmentalia (January 11 and 15): Feast of Goddess of Birth, Carmentis. The Calends of February (February 1) were the foundation festival of Juno Seispes (Sospita), Mater Regina in Lanuvium (Alban Mountains), at which the consuls brought her a sacrifice. Further, at this festival, a serpentine oracle was performed. A virginal girl was made to offer food to a serpent, in the cultic cave, and, by whether or not the serpent accepted it, a fruitful or unfruitful year was foretold. Between February 1…

Antiquity (Graeco-Roman Ancient World, Ancient East, Late Antiquity): Time Chart

(2,920 words)

a) Ancient Near East, Greek Mediterranean (Christoph Auffarth) Era 1: The First Cities and Realms around 8000 Cities (Jericho, Çatal Höyük) The ‘Neolithic Revolution’ makes it possible to store nourishment all year long. This is the basis for the sedentary condition, and the maintenance, of rulers, the military, and laborers. around 3000 Realms (Egypt, Mesopotamia) Civilizations on the great rivers extend their living space by irrigation, but this functions, in the long term, only through close organization. 1351–1334 around 1200 Monotheistic revolution of Akhenaton in Egypt Phar…


(3,929 words)

Author(s): Bergmann, Werner
1. Today the concept ‘anti-Semitism’ denotes any historical form of hostility toward Jews. The word's first publication, however, in 1879 (and doubtless first employed in the milieu of journalist Wilhelm Marr), was by German anti-Semites. They were seeking to denote a new form of antipathy toward Jews, intended to be understood scientifically, and to be grounded in racism, as distinguished from the old ‘naïve,’ religious hostility. Today, Christian hostility toward Jews is denoted by the specific concept of anti-Judaism. ‘Anti-Semitism’ has become a more comprehensive ter…