Animal Magic

Ariel Glucklich

in The End of Magic

Published in print May 1997 | ISBN: 9780195108798
Published online October 2011 | e-ISBN: 9780199853434 | DOI:
Animal Magic

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No clear demarcation line separates humans from animals in Banaras, either in theory or in practice. Just as Americans speak English with little reflection on rules of grammar, so Banarsis interact with animals directly and without the intervention of a scientific system of classification. India's mythology is vast and vividly populated with an immense variety of animals. Still, the act of linking a particular animal to a given myth is seldom a clear-cut intellectual act. Sociologists and anthropologists like to use such terms as analogy, homology, symbolization, and instantiation to describe the connection. The common thread in the rich sociological analysis of symbolic animals is the arbitrary or conventional quality of human relations to nature. The residents of Banaras, especially fishermen or boat-owner castes, use fish in their rites of exorcism. The use of animals, usually birds, to detect the stealthy arrival of ghosts may be connected with another practice—the reading of omens in the behavior of animals. This chapter examines the use of animals in magic and in healing.

Keywords: Banaras; animals; magic; healing; mythology; classification; nature; exorcism; ghosts; omens

Chapter.  7726 words. 

Subjects: Religious Studies

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