The Brill Dictionary of Religion

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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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(1,306 words)

Author(s): Rüpke, Jörg
Lunar/Solar Year 1. A calendar presents a system for ordering time by dividing a unit, the year, into a framework whose smallest components are days. This system coordinates a society's social, economic, and religious activities. Objectification and communication are served th…


(1,099 words)

Author(s): Cootsona, Gregory S.
The “Golden State” California's dream of boundless frontiers continues to lure religious seekers. This state, whose shores overlook the expansive Pacific Ocean, offers a place for the spirit to roam free in search of new vistas. The frontier is, as Cotton Mather once wrote, “a temporary condition through which we are passing to the Promised Land” (Dyrness 1989, 29). And this Promised Land of California has seemed to guarantee economic, spatial, and religious fulfillment. It is not surprisingly that…


(836 words)

Author(s): Hensel, Sabine
Concept 1. After landing in the isles of the West Indies in 1492, Columbus reported ‘man-eating’ inhabitants of the islands, the ‘Caribs’ ( caribes, caniba, ‘strong,’ ‘shrewd’). The word ‘cannibalism’ was derived from their name. With the discovery of the New World, it replaced the concept of ‘anthropophagy’ (Gk., ánthropos, ‘human being’; phageín, ‘to eat’), the term that had been used since antiquity and the Middle Ages. Anthropophagy in the strict sense is the actual consumption of human flesh; the broader sense includes the drinking of blood,…


(1,210 words)

Author(s): Bahr, Petra
Canonization as a Process 1. The concept of canonization (from Heb., qana, ‘staff,’ ‘[measuring] reed,’ adopted as a loan word in Greek) describes the process in which a set of symbols, texts, actions, or artifacts is fixed as authoritative and normative. The collection, ordering, and commitment to canonical writing of self-evident daily relationships, cultic practices, styles of piety, and moral conceptions serves to reinforce tradition. It is a process of crystallization that can go on for centuries, as the various expressive religious forms solidify in the sto…


(1,009 words)

Author(s): Kehrer, Günter

Capital Punishment/Execution

(2,049 words)

Author(s): Wachowski, Markus
1. Whether it is permissible in law to kill a person, either in the name of the state, or indeed of religion, ranks as one of the most fundamental and most disputed of ethical problems. As the heaviest and ultimate form of punishment, its implementation awaits the correct solution to the problem of what societal or political instance has the right of life and death. Historically, capital punishment developed out of crimes regulated by private, family, tribal, and sacral rights and their atonement, and was committed to a community of law as its apposite instance. Its introduction as a general right constitutes a regulation vis-à-vis unauthorized or arbitrary private justice. E…


(992 words)

Author(s): Lützenkirchen, Hans-Georg | Helmut, Zander
Fasting Eve—Fasching— Carnival 1. The word ‘carnival’ is derived from the Italian carne (‘meat’) and levale (‘removal’), recalling the practice of abstinence from meat during the penitential season of Lent. It was originally used for the name of Shrove Tuesday, the eve of the first day of Lent (Ash Wednesday). Derived from the Old English lengten (‘springtime,’ implying the lengthening of the days), ‘lent’ is the annual forty-weekday Christian season of fasting, abstinence from meat, and sobriety of manner, in th…


(1,323 words)

Author(s): Schweer, Thomas
1. The concept of caste is usually associated with some of the seemingly most deplorable phenomena of the Indian social order. These include a fatalism opposed to progress, discrimination against large parts of the Indian population, and a religious determination of social class. Let it be pointed out, however, that this is a conceptualization maintained in Europe, which, in principle, can no longer think j…


(1,113 words)

Author(s): Treml, Martin
Concept 1. Generally, the ancient Greek concept catharsis denotes ‘cleansing’ or ‘purification.’ By way of a determinate, prescribed action—usually cultic and ritual—a condition regarded as unclean is forsaken, and, either as novelty or anew, replaced with a state of purity. The opposition of clean and unclean is universal and enters a system of classification as an ordering of experiences (M. …


(1,419 words)

Author(s): Blaschke, Olaf


(1,245 words)

Author(s): Porr, Martin
The Cave as Place of Worship 1. Caves, as places of cultic, ritual or religious actions in the broadest sense, are a worldwide phenomenon. They can neither be circumscribed by a historical period, nor simply connected with particular societal forms. Caves, in all times and on all continents, serve as particular fixed points in the landscape of nature. By way of their natural structure as ‘gates to another world,’ they play an important role in human beings' cultural and mythological interpretation of the environment. Old Stone Age 2. In the section of human history accessible only…


(1,790 words)

Author(s): Tepper, Leo
1. In Western society, sexuality is considered an important component of being human. In most cultures, one's own procreation in one's children is fully …


(1,028 words)

Author(s): Kurre, Silvia
Concept 1. Today's denotation of the concept Celtic (from ‘Celts’; Gk., Keltoi, Galatai; Lat., Celtae, Galli), from the soccer team to harp music, can be seen as the product of a lengthy, repeatedly interrupted history of its reception. Generally, the concept designates at l…

Celts and Teutons: Time Chart

(2,460 words)

Author(s): Hehn, Georg
Era 1: Pre-Christian Northern Europe 8th-6th cent. BCE Hallstatt culture The Hallstatt Culture, named for a cemetery near Hallstatt in the Salzkammergut, extends from its nucleus to the middle Danube, then across Central …


(606 words)

Author(s): Auffarth, Christoph
Surrounded by a wall, and near a church (or even partly within), and enjoying the latter's ‘immunity’ from assault lies the cemetery (Middle English cimiterie, from Lat., coemeterium, Greek koimētērion, and ultimately from koiman, ‘to put to sleep’; compare Ger., Frieden, denoting ‘peace’; cf. Friedhof, ‘cemetery’). Even fugitives seeking asylum could find safety here. The social prestige of the departed is reflected in the choice and form of the burial place. In the course of the nineteenth century, locations of burial were established on the edge of a city, or outside it—separation of the living and dead being regarded as hygienically necessary—and made into spacious parks. In a republican spirit, the display of prestige …

Central America

(1,976 words)

Author(s): Neitzke, Dietmar
Pre-Spanish Time 1. In the pre-Spanish era, the cultural space of Central America, reaching from the region of the Maya to northern Mexico, was a land of rival, hierarchical central states, all nevertheless penetrated by a practically homogeneous religion. Their cities were also cultural centers with temple pyramids in which an influential priesthood celebrated the polytheistic state religion, with its complex rites and rituals, to maintain the fragile cosmic equilibrium. Their rituals were all observed on …

Central and South America: Time Chart

(2,567 words)

Author(s): Drexler, Josef
Era 1: Precolumbian era (c. 15,000 BCE–1492 CE) around 15,000 BCE Settling of America: hunter-gatherer cultures. Phases: Paleo-Indio, formative, era of the regional developments. Shamanism, hunting rituals (cave paintings). Economic base: hunting (deep rain forest). After the end of the last glacier period (c. 5000 BCE), shallower forest. In the case of the coast dwellers, mussel heaps (Puerto Hormiga, in Colombia). Manioc raising. around 1500 BCE–1600 CE Sacred Kazikism of Colombia (Kalima, Quimbaya, Sinú, Tairona, Muisca) Raising the storable vegetable maize makes pos…