Animal and Shaman: Ancient Religions of Central Asia

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Animal and Shaman presents a comparative survey of the ancient customs and religions of Central Asia. The Pre-Christian and Pre-Muslim peoples of the region, such as the Huns, Scythians, Turks, Mongols, Manchus, Finns and Hungarians, shared a number of traditions and rituals. Characteristics observed by anthropologists today may be traced directly back to an ancient past.

In ancient times there were remarkable commonalities in the forms of worship and spiritual expression among the different peoples of Inner Eurasia, all largely based on the role of animals in their lives. The harsh physical climate of the region led to an emphasis on hunting and animals, in contrast to the fertility rites common in more agriculturally hospitable areas. These characteristics have survived not only in the legends of the region, but have also found their way into the mythologies of the West. Baldick proposes that the myths, rituals, and epics of Central Asia served as possible foundations for such great works at the Odyssey, the Gospels, and Beowulf, which seem to have precursors in Iranian and Inner Eurasian tales.

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Editorial Reviews

In this comparative survey of the beliefs and customs of the pre- Christian and pre-Muslim peoples of Central Asia, Baldick (comparative religion, King's College, London) notes their commonalities (e.g., preoccupation with animal sacrifices) and traces this Iranian/Eurasian legacy in such Western works as the Gospels, , and . Annotation c. Book News, Inc., Portland, OR (
From the Publisher

"A wide-ranging, comparative study which draws on archaeological, literary, and ethnographic sources from the first millennium BCE to the present to discern common features in the ancient customs and native religions of Inner Eurasia."-Ken Teague in Asian Affairs
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Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9780814798720
  • Publisher: New York University Press
  • Publication date: 7/1/2000
  • Pages: 216
  • Product dimensions: 6.50 (w) x 8.70 (h) x 0.84 (d)

Meet the Author

Julian Baldick was, until his retirement, Reader in the Study of Religions at King’s College London. He is the author of Mystical Islam: An Introduction to Sufism (also available from NYU Press), among other titles.

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