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Tuesday, November 15, 2011

Anthropology Study: Shoshoni Transformations

The Shoshoni can change their beliefs and rituals in line with newly received visions or dreams of supernatural power. We see this when individuals receive certain visions in a dream where they are in contact with puha or supernatural power of guardian Spirits. Whereas individuals, in the earlier forms of Shoshoni religion, would seek a vision and receive a guardian spirit, a long and arduous procedure, persons in recent times could use dreams as a means of obtaining supernatural power.

Shoshoni myths are not transformed into ritual behaviors, whereas beliefs are. “Mythology represents an older worldview and thus does not reflect everyday religious reality, with a few exceptions.” The Sundance ritual is based on legend, however it’s a creation of the Plain's religions and has nothing to do with myth. It was developed when the Shoshone were part of the Great Basin cultural area. Consequently, Shoshone take the same approach to animal ceremonialism, which hasn’t actually disappeared entirely, but has been conveniently compartmentalized and reinterpreted to suit the dominant religious pattern, the vision complex.

Shoshoni religion incorporates various historical influences while forming a distinctive worldview. The individual, using a whole worldview, experiences doctrines present in Shoshoni tradition in a completely different perspective depending on certain criterion. The worldview can change depending on environment, social constructs and new cultural practices. As Moore notes, “There is no codified theology," and yet the Shoshoni worldview presents a clear and consistent picture of religious reality. Accordingly, the Shoshoni continued their ancient traditions and rituals, like rites of passage, even after their transformation into mounted, well-disciplined warriors along the lines of Plains Indians.

It was a combination of preservation of rituals and observance, adherence to earlier customs, new worldviews, and overall contact with other tribes, which allowed the Shoshoni to suit or transform their rituals to different situations.

Picture © FirstPeople.us


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