“ speckled one ” … everyone H u m a n i t i e s

“ speckled one ” … everyone H u m a n i t i e s

Short Question #1:

Consider magic, the practices of a shaman, and the belief in witchcraft in a belief system. What role does belief and use of magic, witchcraft, and shamanism perform for the people and society that practices them?

Short Question #2:

(thoroughly in about 500 words)

  1. Why do so many human societies have religious belief systems? What role does it play in our biocultural behaviors and the functions of human culture?

Short Question #3:

In Burma, religious dancers wear frightening, colorful masks and do aggressive dances to dissonant music.

Using anthropology as your basis, choose one of these statements, and agree with it or disagree with it in a short essay.

  • Dancers train many years to become effective enough to do these dances in public, and that makes them part of the priesthood.

Several questions are asked after this written passage. Please read it, and then answer the series of questions


This is a story from East Africa, from a people who are pastoralists and hold all of their wealth in their herds of cattle.

A male youth meets a young woman and is very interested in marrying her and building a life with her. He approaches his aunt and tells here that he would like to “become a man” … this spurs his aunt into action.

The extended family is notified, and the female relatives of the youth shave all of the hair off the youth, making him as bald as the day he was born. He loses his name, and is not referred to by name any more… he is sent off with other youths who are in the process of becoming men. They are trained in the customary role and work of men in isolation, taught by elders of their people.

While the youths are away in training, their families gather resources to acquire the finest cow they can afford. They will work with others in their social circle, to perhaps, acquire a cow that is more expensive than they can afford, with the expectation, they will assist those families with the same when the time comes.

Upon their return, the group is held down on the ground. A small pile of dirt is made around their head, and elders use sharp stones to carve a “V” shape into their forehead. The blood is gathered with the dirt, and rubbed into the cut marks to ensure scarring.

Now, fully marked, the youth is now considered an adult man, with all of the rights and responsibilities of that societal role. He is presented with his first cow. He is given a new name, based on that first cow. His new name may be: “Of the Crooked Horn” or “Speckled One” … everyone at the ceremony will loudly admire that cow, say that it is the finest cow they have ever seen.

This young man will now be able to build his herd, and that herd will provide the bride price he will need to offer to get the young woman of his affection to consider marrying him. Those cows that are part of the bride price are intended to ease the loss of that young woman’s skills and talents from her own birth family. All of her life, she has supported them, and once married, she will be supporting her own family.

This is the story of becoming an adult among the Nuer.


Question 16- : The scars that are cut on the youth’s forehead resemble the wrinkled on the forehead of a cow. Which researcher would find that very symbolically important?

  • Malinowski
  • Geertz
  • Gmelch

Question 17-: The youth suffers pain and fear when the marks are made on his forehead, yet he goes through with it because the reward is so great: a new identity. This is an example of:

  • The importance of sacrifice in rituals and dealings with the supernatural, the price that must be paid for transformation
  • A superstition that should be eradicated, as it serves no benefit and is inherently dangerous, from an anthropological point of view.
  • Sorcery in its most basic form, and should be considered from a purely etic perspective

Question 18- : The payment of cattle to the family of the young woman when she gets married to the young man is an example of:

  • Oppression of females in society
  • Balanced Reciprocation
  • Bride Price
  • Both C and D are correct

Question 19- : Since the youth could not get married until he goes through the training in the perceived role of a man in Nuer society (and this youth wants to get married) … the training aspect of this event is an example of this ritual being part of this society’s:

  • Social Control, keeping a steadiness to culture and buffering culture change
  • Enculturation, allowing a process of learning the roles and actions expected in society.
  • Identity, a way of learning who and what the people in a society are, and how they should act with each other.
  • All of these answers are correct

Narrative #2

  1. A new lawyer takes an oath to uphold the Constitution of the United States. They will look to the laws and the Constitution to decide what cases they will pursue, and how they will pursue them. The lawyer may acquire a statue of Lady Justice for their desk, a reminder of what “justice” is: Lady Justice is blindfolded, so she cannot see who is coming before her seeking justice. She holds the scales of justice in her hands. To violate the vows taken could have severe consequences, including being removed from the ability to practice law and jail time. The lawyer believes that the laws and Constitution ensure a fair result for all disputes.

This is the belief system of this lawyer.

  1. A new priest is invested. After many years of training, the priest knows the dates for rituals and how to perform them. The new priest lies down on the ground in silent contemplation before an altar before being declared a new priest. The new priest will wear symbols of their role in society, such as an amulet, or special clothing that show “who” they are. The vows this new priest make are made to their deity and last all of their life. Dire, permanent consequences will result in breaking of those vows, up to and including spiritual destruction after death. The priest believes that the supernatural forces will ensure protection against random dangers in the future, if rituals are completed properly.

This is the belief system of this priest.


Question 20: Which of these is an accurate statement about these belief systems?

  • The priest’s belief system is supernatural-based, as the priest is engaging the influence of supernatural means through ritual.
  • The Lawyer’s belief system is secular, as it includes core values, worldview, and symbolism without invoking a supernatural being.
  • Both belief systems are based in animism, since there are spirits in both environments and new positions.
  • Both A and B are correct.
  • None of these answers are correct.

Question 21: Consider the statue of “Lady Justice” on the desk of the new lawyer. This is:

  • An example of a secular Master Symbol, which has deep meaning to many in the society, although the meaning may not be exactly the same to all in the society.
  • An example of a Cult Figure used in worship of the concept of “Justice” by the new lawyer, and it is supernatural in nature.
  • An example of something that Malinowski would research in great detail as he was a Functional Materialist
  • None of these are correct answers

Question 22: Consider the work of the priest. They are tasked with properly performing the rituals, or there could be great danger to society, the people in the society believe.

  • Sir Evans-Pritchard would equate this with the concept of witchcraft among the Azande, who he studied
  • Freud would suggest that religion is a great benefit to society, and that using this method of ritual would benefit members of the society in their paternal relationships.
  • Malinowski would point out that these rituals are for the psychological benefit of the people against the fear of risk and random danger over which they have no control.
  • Gmelch would discuss this in the concept of “Secular Ritual” and place it in the same category as the magic employed by baseball players.

Which of these is the best definition of a “belief system,” from an anthropological perspective?

  • A religious belief system is outdated and infantile, and it should be discarded after study as a warning to future generations, as it performs no function for society. A secular belief system is more valid, and more likely to have a lasting benefit to future generations, as it performs a function for society, unlike one based on the supernatural.
  • A religious belief system is a set of beliefs and practices pertaining to supernatural beings or forces, while a secular belief system is a set of beliefs and practices that do not relate to supernatural beings, but rather, enculturate, form identity, and inform worldview. Belief systems provide a web of meaning through which to perceive the world, how it functions, and ones’ role in it.
  • A religious belief system is part of the multiple superstitions that a society uses to enculturate its members and keep them under control, and it should be studied from the etic anthropological perspective, as should a secular belief system, which uses enculturation and myth as a means of oppression.

Posted in Uncategorized