MAGIC, WITCHCRAFT, AND RELIGION 8
NativeAmerica: Magic, Witchcraft, and Religion
NativeAmericans had diverse beliefs that shaped their religious andcultural practices. The cultural facets had a significant influenceon the adoption of new values, including, religious values fronted bythe foreign religions. In examining the effects of the indigenousvalues, spirituality and practices, one faces the challenge ofunderstanding the relationships amongst various religious groups.Currently, the religion is characterized by a pluralistic religioussystem. The belief, in some communities, that their deity is thecreator of nature makes it difficult for them to accept the valuespromoted by Christianity among others. The matter happens to reflectin their ceremonies meant for cleansing. Religious and culturalpluralism took root in Native America due to effects arising frominteractions with other cultures. Pluralism has resulted in theblending of the traditional cultures to conform to the contemporarysociety. At times, conflicts emanate due to the differences among theinhabitants. Cultural pluralism challenges the traditional beliefsand practices as embraced by the Native Americans. As manycommunities have gradually left behind their traditional beliefs,religious practices have changed considerably. Although manycommunities have adopted Christianity, there exist tensions amongvarious religious groupings. Active participation in interreligiousdialogue, reconciliation, and tolerance will eliminate religiousconflicts, as well as, allow people to benefit from their religiousbeliefs and practices.
TheNative American traditional beliefs have considerable influence onthe religious practices in the region. The traditional theologicalbelief system is still evident in the modern world. It is notablethat the practices reflect the primary identities of the natives.Nonetheless, most of the Native Americans’ spiritualism isreflected in the social scale. It is thus difficult to separatereligion and cultural practices. Traditional practices in some tribeswithin the region include usage of herbs and sage. The nature ofreligious ceremonies varies with tribes. Matters such as fasting,drumming and prayer were common among the Native Americans. TheNative Americans’ Church was a significant religious body thatencompassed the spiritual practices. The religion had symbols, withthe primary rite being peyote. Elements of Christianity were alsoevident in the Native America. Before the 1890s, Wakan Tankawas among the religious beliefs in the region. Spanish missionariesbrought Catholicism, which began in the Southwest region. Chants anddrums were among the paraphernalia used by the religious adherents(Walker, 1989).
Inthe process of civilization, missionaries from Europe came to theregion and introduced the mainstream religions to the natives. Thejourney to the present advancements in the missionary works loud ofthe growth process where concepts are generated one after the otherto contemporary fine-tuned details. The traditional attachmentbetween the society and mainstream religions involved values andnorms, which replaced the disjointed allegiance in their societies.The move was instrumental in enhancing integration of people ofdiverse backgrounds, thus promoted cultures and coexistence (Walker,1989). What followed was an exchange of cultures, ideas and language.In some regions, the social and cultural separation led to thedestruction of the traditional beliefs. Missionaries supplementedevery feature of the people’s way of life in areas such asreligion, arts, science and cultural beliefs. The emphasis was that,if any individual wish to be familiar with effects of culture on theprovision of services, then one must have the capabilities ofcharacterizing traditional values. The missionaries assisted in thetransfer of information and acquisition of newer knowledge. Onemajor observation was their beliefs about respecting the wishes andrespect of other religions for a peaceful existence. On religiouspractices, Native Americans believed in a supreme being who commandedrespect from all individuals. Sacred places such as temples, trees,and mountains were set aside as places of worship. Often, a selectgroup would offer sacrifices to appease the deity. Not all peoplecould offer sacrifices. In most cases, the elderly men wouldparticipate in the exercise. Further, the head of families would leadin prayers for the protection of their households and healing. Theextreme natives had set their rules of worship that were to befollowed by the respective community. Conversely, Christianityintroduced the Bible and other doctrines about the religion.
Witchcraftamong the Native Americans was influenced by the religious beliefs ofthe people. The two, religion and witchcraft, were tied in variousways. It is noteworthy that they held nature sacred. Symbols, forinstance, drew inspiration and influence from the natural world.Different societies in Native America had distinct and unique kindsof witchcraft. Some were used for purposes of charms and amulets.Rituals marked the performance of witchcraft. The practitioners had adifferent uniform that was used when conducting rituals. Despite theperceived regional differences, the ceremonies had similarcharacteristics and a shared sense of awareness on matters such asland and creatures. Land offered materials for use in the creation ofmagic. Some of the commonly used materials included feathers, bonesand stones. The materials were used in the preparation of medicinesand charms. Across the regions, the sorcerers believed that they hadpower over both natural and human made occurrences. As such, theysought to enhance a sense of unity with the unknown natural forces.Various approaches were used to treat the diseases, including,crystal rocks. On other occasions, the witches would use sacred hymnsin the treatment of ailments. Besides treating diseases, the wizardswould use their trade to keep away the evil spirits and influences.The sacred pipe is another symbol used in diagnosing diseases. In allcommunities, the people viewed the owl as a sign of bad luck. It isnoteworthy that owls sent by a witch were never killed otherwise,the killer was to face ‘bad luck’.
Magicwas another practice among the Native Americans. Some religions, suchas Neopaganism, Goddess Worship, and Yoruba, took magic as part oftheir beliefs. Healing, for instance, encompassed usage of herbs anddivine power. Nonetheless, we observe that many societies consideredmagic and religion as separate entities. Religion had a sense ofworship and belief in a Supreme Being. Magic encompassed themanipulation of the spiritual world. Shamans in Native Americatreated magic with some form of religious beliefs. Their magicaltechniques sought to tap into natural happenings, with some believingthat the approaches are different from spiritual cosmology. It isnoteworthy that religion has elements of magic such as miracles andangels. Native Americans considered that magic was a crucialcomponent in the spiritual path. It helped people in getting in touchwith the natural forces and divinity. In the contemporary societies,some people use magic and occult interchangeably (Newport, 1998).
Witchcraftis believed to have traveled in the US from the UK. One criticalobservation was that witchcraft was attractive to women. Varioussymbols used in witchcraft emphasized on women empowerment. Neopaganmovement, for instance, was instrumental in advancing the goal. Wealso observe that the Goddess took three aspects, namely, crone,mother and maid. In later years, the radicalization of feministwitchcraft resulted in the integration of both men and women. Themovement, thus, had groups that influenced spirituality goals andpractices. Native Americans spiritual practices have changed over theyears, giving rise to the pan-American concept on spirituality. Magicwas considered as part of self-empowerment. Most magical religions inNative America have since changed due to the variations in the socialworld. In fact, the changes have contributed towards changing theoverview of religions. It is for such reason that people startedquestioning the authority of science and relation to worship. Magicalreligions put great emphasis on rituals for self-transformation.
Mostcommunities believed that God was an object of ritual activity, aswell as, significant issues affecting the community. Others contendthat a supreme being made everything in the universe to support humanlife. The communities had established social systems and classes.These clusters had distinct responsibilities aimed at enhancing thewelfare of the society. Among the classes were the leaders who hadgreat influence on the affairs of the communities. The rulers camefrom a royal clan. No one is quite sure exactly when the divisionoccurred, but everyone agrees that it was a gradual transformation.It all starts because of power struggles between the communities andreligions of the area.
Developingideas, as well as, thinking in a provocative manner show that themovement is progressing. The Christian institution existing must notdelay acting. The plurality of the faiths and that one of thereligion in the present days pose a significant threat or challengefor the Christians and their churches. Ecumenism, for instance,necessitates that the problem exclusively be involved theologically.Some diverse theological techniques offer fresh meaning and ideas tothe universality of the goals of the ecumenical. As Ahluwalia andMiller (2015) observe in their book, it is necessary for renewedunderstanding between religions to realize substantial positive gainsin humanity. We also need to avoid interfering with the beliefs,whether cultural or religious, adopted by the people. The increasedintellectual life in the society led to an informed society who hadacquired knowledge about the world they live in. Some startedquestioning the religious teachings leading to its reformation toconform to the current knowledge (Lewis, 1996).
Traditionalbeliefs among the Native Americans had significant influence on therelation amongst people from different religions. Co-existence in theregion is attributed to the adoption of different practices. Culturalpluralism will continue to exist in the contemporary society as thevarious groups seek to advance their ideals while at the same timeconsidering the values of the dominant culture. The society hasaccepted to respect the values of the dominant religions. It iswidely accepted that religious practices provide information, morehuman interaction, and enhancement in making informed choices inlife. The values of religions should continue teaching the importanceto humankind. We ought to advocate for respect for the wishes ofoneself and other religions as enshrined in the religious teachings.The question remains whether the traditional beliefs will be lost inthe wake of religious and cultural pluralism.
Ahluwalia,P., &amp Miller, T. (2015). Religion and violence. SocialIdentities, 21(2), 85-86.
Butler,J., Wacker, G., & Balmer, R. H. (2011). Religion in Americanlife: A short history. Oxford: Oxford University Press.
Lewis,J. R. (1996). Magical religion and modern witchcraft. Albany,N.Y: State University of New York Press.
Newport,J. P. (1998). The New Age movement and the biblical worldview:Conflict and dialogue. Grand Rapids, Mich: W.B. Eerdmans.
Walker,D. E. (1989). Witchcraft and sorcery of the American nativepeoples. Moscow, Idaho: University of Idaho Press.