Rel 110 Theories Paper

Submitted By Kai-Walker
Words: 2367
Pages: 10

Kai Walker
Religion 110
Theories Paper

In his book, “The Sacred and The Profane”, Mircea Eliade discusses how human beings create and participate in religion. Eliade explains that there are two modes of being in the world. Those two modes of being are described as the sacred and the profane. As suggested by Eliade, “Sacred is the opposite of the profane” (Eliade, 10). While the profane sounds like a terrible entity, it is actually defined by Eliade as the natural world or more specifically, ones daily life. Scared on the other hand must first manifest itself in order to be considered sacred. The process in which the sacred manifests itself is called hierophany. In his book, Eliade discusses the hireophany of space, nature, and human existence. In order to further investigate how hierophany works, one can look to various religious practices carried out all over the world. In this essay four practices will be used in order to explore heirophany. These practices include: The Masked Dancing in Burkina Faso, The Initiation with Ants in Satere Mawe, The Blood Initiation in Papua, New Guniea, and finally The Apache Girl’s Rite of Passage in the United States. The first hierophany described by Eliade is the hierophany of space. “For religious man, space is not homogenous; he experiences interruptions, breaks in it; some parts of space are qualitatively different from others” (Eliade, 20). In turn, space can be either sacred or profane. Through the process of hierophany a space that was once seen as profane can become sacred. In the first video, the members of the village of Boni in Burkina Faso put on masked performances in order to purify their neighborhood. The dancers wear tall masks that not only, bear the faces of various important animals but also, describe community virtues and the dangers of not following the path laid out by the ancestors. In the video, various individuals from the village wear the masks of animals including: the Crocodile, the Monkey, and the Bush Buffalo. Although the individuals are wearing a mask they are no longer themselves. Instead, they inhabit the behavior of their respective mask. The first noticeable aspects of the video are the masks themselves. Many of the masks worn during the performances are so tall that they nearly appear as if they will cause the person to topple over. The height of the masks connects to a term described by Eliade as the axis mundi. The axis mundi, “Connects and supports heaven and earth and whose base is fixed in the world below” (Eliade, 36). Because of their height, the masks serve as the direct connection the people below have to the Gods above. The second noticeable aspect of the Burkina Faso video is when a white ash is placed around the circumference of the individual wearing the chameleon mask. The video explains that the ash warns the people that they must not get near the chameleon because of the apparent danger. As previously discussed, the sacred must reveal itself in order to be considered sacred. In turn, because this specific space, the area surrounding the chameleon mask is blocked off, it transforms the space into two separate entities, the sacred and the profane. For Eliade, the sacred space is the only space the religious man can live, as it is either created by the Gods or consecrated. Therefore, the religious man cannot live in the profane world because it represents not only, chaos but also, non-being. The marking of the space around the chameleon creates a unique kind of sacred space. Outside of the white ash is sacred; it is what Eliade would describe as the Cosmos. The people of the Burkina Faso can live within that space because it is sacred and therefore safe to inhabit. However, whatever is behind the white ash can be seen as the Chaos therefore for the religious man, “If by some evil chance, he strays into it, he feels emptied of his ontic substance, as if he were dissolving in Chaos, and he finally dies”…