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Representations of Nature in Text, Image and Practice: Tradition and Innovation

Panel Chairs: Heike Peter, Bodil Liljefors Persson | Thursday, August 27, 9-11 a.m.

This panel wants to investigate dynamics and innovations of representations of the theme of nature within historical cultures in different geographical settings, such as Sumer, Anatolia, and Mesoamerica. Within the panel historical religions from various cultures with large visual and textual material, archaeological and archival records are explored aiming at a comparison in order to analyze and specify knowledge traditions on the theme of nature – culture. The papers in this panel focuses on cultures that show similarities but also differences in geographical settings and in societal structures, and at the same time they all differ in culture and religion. Thus we anticipate a discussion of a general interest regarding representations of nature in different cultural settings aiming at further development of useful theoretical perspectives.

Heike Peter

Drumming Thunder and Weather Talk – Ritualization of Weather in Changing Hittite Contexts

How is nature represented culturally in ritual space? Weather gods belong to a group of very important gods of Mesopotamia and Anatolia and they are highly represented in text and exemplified in images. They are both individualized and generalized by the frequent combination of different writing styles marking both a group affiliation on one hand and personal names – individuality – on the other. Weather then again has also been taken care of ritually, i.e. in thunder rituals. Is this paper I want to investigate how weather has been designed and spoken about in ritual space from Old Hittite texts to the New Kingdom, thus in different historical settings. Is it possible to detect changes during the times and how may changes be interpreted? By focusing on weather and combining material culture, ritual activity and discourse I want to illuminate a possible process of “culturization of nature” beyond structuralism.

Milan Kovac

Man and Animal. Origin and Transformations of Maya Nagualism

Nagualism is a frequent belief widely distributed in all Mesoamerican cultures supposing close relation between man and animal and also special possibilities to transform human beings into animals. At theoretical level possible relations between nagualism and totemism have been widely discussed, resulting in confirmation of autonomous state of nagualism. The paper focuses on ancient origin of Maya nagualism and its flexibility till nowadays. Author is dealing with reconstruction of this phenomenon in the past (including Pre-Classic and Classic period) and he is analyzing contemporary Maya myths and beliefs, especially among the Lacandons. The author reveals its connection with boundaries between the world and underworld. Conclusions based on Lacandon model can contribute to the understanding of roots of nagualism and the reason of its pivotal role in Maya religious thinking.

Bodil Liljefors Persson

Challenges and Negotiations on Spirituality and Ritual Practices in Yucatec Maya Religion

This study focus on how ritual practices are connected to certain natural and cultural places in Yucatec Maya (Con-)Texts. Representations of nature and spirituality in text, image and rituals are highlighted. Classic Maya iconography, Early Colonial and Yucatec Maya Texts; the Books of Chilam Balam and Ritual of the Bacabs, will be analysed to grasp the intricate patterns of cosmology and ritual in Maya Religion. Which processes of change and patterns of continuity are negotiated? Aided by a contextual approach and discourse analysis this paper focus on these questions from Yucatec Maya perspectives. Christian influences are analysed in order to explore the boundaries of Yucatec Maya Religion. Today rituals of healing and harmony are promoted alongside with ecotourism. Is this only a way of attracting modern tourism or can we track these rituals back in time?

Therese Rodin

The Birth-giving Earth and the Hero a mythological theme in Mesopotamian literature

A recurrent theme in Sumerian and Akkadian literature is that the earth gives birth. Sometimes she gives birth to heroes who are understood as good and sometimes to creatures that are understood as evil. When the progeny of the earth is evil, a hero wages war against it and thereafter creates a new world. This hero is always connected to order and to the Mesopotamian kingdom. In this article the birth-giving earth and her creatures as well as the hero will be discussed from the perspective of their connotations of nature and culture as well as power relations. These three parties will also be investigated regarding how their connotations are transformed over time, as seen in the literature. As a point of departure in the analysis, I will use the theorizing of anthropologist Sherry Ortner in her well-known article “Is Female to Male as Nature Is to Culture?”


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