Primal Religions: Types & Practices

An error occurred trying to load this video.

Try refreshing the page, or contact customer support.

Coming up next: Mystery Cults and the Early Mother Goddess

You're on a roll. Keep up the good work!

Take Quiz Watch Next Lesson
 Replay
Your next lesson will play in 10 seconds
  • 0:01 Definition of Primal
  • 0:40 Pre-Scientific
  • 1:47 Animism
  • 2:49 Shaman
  • 3:32 Lesson Summary
Add to Add to Add to

Want to watch this again later?

Log in or sign up to add this lesson to a Custom Course.

Login or Sign up

Timeline
Autoplay
Autoplay
Create an account to start this course today
Try it free for 5 days!
Create An Account

Recommended Lessons and Courses for You

Lesson Transcript
Instructor: Jessica Whittemore

Jessica has taught junior high history and college seminar courses. She has a master's degree in education.

This lesson will explore the many traits of the primal religions of past and present. In doing so, it will highlight animism, totemism and the use of shamans in the primal religions of the world.

Definition of Primal

When we hear the word 'primal,' most of us tend to think of cavemen and dinosaurs. Although this isn't a completely invalid thought, it's definitely not the complete picture. To anthropologists and sociologists alike, the word primal more so denotes primitive or basic. With this in mind, it's important to remember that primal religions exist in the present. Although they don't function in the Western paradigm of say, Catholicism or Judaism, they are still actively practiced around the globe. Yes, they were in the ancient past, but rest assured, they're still alive in places like the plains of Africa and the Outback of Australia.

Pre-Scientific

To begin our study of primal religions, let's first take a look at some of their main traits. For starters, primal religions are usually pre-scientific. Rather than using the modern tools of observation or experimentation, primal people rely on myth and ritual to discern their world.

For the most part, the cultures of primal religions do not rely on any sort of written code or history. Instead their myths, including that of creation, were passed down orally. An excellent example of this is the Aboriginal belief in the notion of dreaming, or a timeless time. To them, the world was originally void of form without past, present or future. Within this timeless time, mystical beings somehow materialized and began to roam the earth, creating land, life and even human beings. Unlike modern-day science's theories of creation, the Aboriginal primal faith still holds to this view of timeless time acting out in their everyday lives.

Animism

Primal religions are usually found in small, insulated, tribal settings. Although the large population of the Yoruba people of Africa and the ancient Aztecs break this rule, they're both still considered pre-scientific and therefore primal.

Within these tribal settings, the people of a primal religion are very tied to the land. To them, the entire world is alive with spirits. This belief, known as animism, guides the primal religions to believe everything, from the rocks to the trees to the waters, are indwelled with an unseen spiritual force known as Mana.

Adding to animism, primal religions often include the practice of totemism, in which it's believed that every human has a mystical bond to a specific animal or element of nature. Usually bonded with an animal, a great example of this are the Nor-Papua of New Guinea, who see themselves intricately linked to fish.

To unlock this lesson you must be a Study.com Member.
Create your account

Register for a free trial

Are you a student or a teacher?
I am a teacher

Unlock Your Education

See for yourself why 30 million people use Study.com

Become a Study.com member and start learning now.
Become a Member  Back

Earning College Credit

Did you know… We have over 95 college courses that prepare you to earn credit by exam that is accepted by over 2,000 colleges and universities. You can test out of the first two years of college and save thousands off your degree. Anyone can earn credit-by-exam regardless of age or education level.

To learn more, visit our Earning Credit Page

Transferring credit to the school of your choice

Not sure what college you want to attend yet? Study.com has thousands of articles about every imaginable degree, area of study and career path that can help you find the school that's right for you.

Create an account to start this course today
Try it free for 5 days!
Create An Account
Support