ancestor worship


Also found in: Dictionary, Thesaurus, Wikipedia.

ancestor worship,

ritualized propitiation and invocation of dead kin. Ancestor worship is based on the belief that the spirits of the dead continue to dwell in the natural world and have the power to influence the fortune and fate of the living. Ancestor worship has been found in various parts of the world and in diverse cultures. It was a minor cult among the Romans (see manesmanes
, in Roman religion, spirits of the dead. Originally, they were called di manes, a collective divinity of the dead. Manes could also refer to the realm of the dead and, later, to the individual souls of the dead.
..... Click the link for more information.
). The practice reached its highest elaboration in W Africa and in the ancient Chinese veneration of ancestors. It is also well developed in the Japanese ShintoShinto
, ancient native religion of Japan still practiced in a form modified by the influence of Buddhism and Confucianism. In its present form Shinto is characterized less by religious doctrine or belief than by the observance of popular festivals and traditional ceremonies and
..... Click the link for more information.
 cult and among the peoples of Melanesia. See apotheosisapotheosis
, the act of raising a person who has died to the rank of a god. Historically, it was most important during the later Roman Empire. In an emperor's lifetime his genius was worshiped, but after he died he was often solemnly enrolled as one of the gods to be publicly
..... Click the link for more information.
; totemtotem
, an object, usually an animal or plant (or all animals or plants of that species), that is revered by members of a particular social group because of a mystical or ritual relationship that exists with that group.
..... Click the link for more information.
.

Bibliography

See J. G. Frazer, The Belief in Immortality and the Worship of the Dead (3 vol., 1913–24, repr. 1968).

ancestor worship

varying forms of religious rites and cult activity centred on respect for actual or mythical ancestors. Such rites (found in many types of society and in several parts of the world, e.g. West Africa, China) are usually based on membership of a LINEAGE GROUP, CLAN or SIB, and are associated with a belief that the ancestral dead can intervene in human social life, and that religious activity can promote the wellbeing of both the living members of society and the ancestral dead. One suggestion is that ancestor worship reflects the importance of family or communal property within the societies in which it occurs. Another is that it legitimates AUTHORITY, e.g. ‘eldership’, while also unifying these groups against outsiders. In SEGMENTARY SOCIETIES ancestor worship can be an important aspect of the identification of the segments that make up the lineage system. In China, according to WEBER (1951), ‘the cohesion of the sib undoubtedly rested wholly on the ancestor cult’. Since these cults were the only folk-cults not managed by the central state, in Weber's view they were an important aspect of the way in which in China – compared, say, with ancient Egypt – the sib was able to resist the encroachments of patrimonial central power. It is within the context of ancestor worship that a Chinese man without male descendants would often resort to adoption, or his relatives invent fictitious descendants on his behalf after his death.

Ancestor Worship

 

an early form of religion, in which the souls of deceased ancestors are venerated, the power to influence the lives of their descendants is ascribed to them, and sacrifices are made to them. Ancestor worship is known in certain matriarchal clan societies (Melanesia and Micronesia) and became especially developed in patriarchal clan societies, when the submission rendered to the authority of family heads and clan elders during their lifetime passed into deification upon their death (family and clan ancestor worship).

During the breakup of primitive societies there arose a tribal and national form of ancestor worship of leaders and princes. For many peoples the leaders were already deified during their own lifetime, and the leaders’ ancestors were considered particularly powerful (as in Polynesia, South Asia, and Central Africa). At the same time, family and clan ancestor worship continued in force and often even passed over into class-differentiated society. This type of ancestor worship played a prominent role in the polytheistic religions of the ancient Greeks, Romans, Slavs, and many other peoples; in China it formed the basis for Confucianism.

In scholarly literature ancestor worship is often interpreted broadly to include care for the dead, belief in totems, and the cult of family and tribal patron gods who were not considered ancestors. In reality, these are more ancient concepts and cults, which later merged with ancestor worship.

REFERENCE

Tokarev, S. A. Religiia v istorii narodov mira, 2nd ed. Moscow, 1965.

A. I. PERSHITS

References in periodicals archive ?
They pose a problem in terms of ancestor worship since they have no descendants to venerate them.
There are examples of the use of suma zakaru ceremonies that imply a ritual invocation of the dead, but they are found in the negative texts that Schmidt eliminates from his survey on the ground that ancestor worship should only be about the dead providing blessings for the living.
Ancestor worship has historically been one of the central institutions of Chinese society regardless of temporal and geographic boundaries.
I was also struck by the names in the metro--by its onomastics, if you will, which show how we give ourselves over to ancestor worship. In France, the historical dimension is always being affirmed in a thousand different ways.
Not ancestor worship, but ancestor acceptance, an easier relationship than Westerners generally have with those who have gone ahead.
Burial rites and ancestor worship bear reference to nearby sites, but none date as early as this one.
Does the appeal of septuagenarian candidates mean America has swapped youth culture for ancestor worship? I doubt it.
Korea readers will largely know from their own experiences, but the foreigner has probably only read about "ancestor worship" and has not attended a ceremony.
On this website, you can learn about ancient Chinese mythology and the origin of their ancestor worship. You can learn Chinese history by reading fun stories on historic figures.
Includes details of Okinawan ancestor worship and spirits they believed in, plus an author's note about real events that inspired the book and about the inappropriate use of the word "Jap" in the book, used for historical accuracy.
Tengrism is a Central Asian religion characterized by shamanism, animism, totemism, poly and monotheism and ancestor worship. It was the prevailing religion of the Turks, Mongols, Hungarians, Xiongnu and Huns, and the religion of ancient Turkic states.
In the video Dream Diary Season 2, 2017, Sekhukhuni stands before a buoyantly animated blue screen and makes proclamations saturated with references to social-media user agreements, postcolonial theory, ancestor worship, DNA analysis, and television end credits.