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ReligionMaterial Dynamics$
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David Chidester

Print publication date: 2018

Print ISBN-13: 9780520297654

Published to California Scholarship Online: January 2019

DOI: 10.1525/california/9780520297654.001.0001

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(p.47) 4 Time

David Chidester

University of California Press

Reviewing theoretical approaches to religious time, this chapter illustrates mythic and ritual productions of time with examples from India and Africa. Classic theories of religious time emphasize either subjective experience, social cohesion, or sacred renewal. Ritual produces regularities—simultaneous, sequential, and hierarchical—that are coordinated by clocks and calendars. Two basic ways of producing religious time, ancestral and mythic, represent different constructions of temporal continuity. Ancestral time, relying on memory, establishes continuity between human generations of ancestors and offspring. Mythic time, transmitted in narratives of origin and destiny, establishes continuity through underlying moral, legal, or forensic relations between actions and consequences. While establishing temporal continuity, mythic time can also signal temporal ruptures in a past crisis, a present conflict, or a future apocalypse. Ritual practices and mythic narratives generate religious time, but religious timing is also crucial in other spheres of human activity, such as politics, economics, and aesthetics.

Keywords:   Africa, ancestors, cognitive continuity, forensic continuity, India, myth, regularities, regulations, ritual, sacred time

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