Essential Sacred Writings from around the World: A Thematic SourceBook on the History of Religions

Essential Sacred Writings from around the World: A Thematic SourceBook on the History of Religions

by Mircea Eliade
     
 

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Originally published as From Primitives to Zen, this comprehensive anthology contains writings vital to all the major non-Western religious traditions, arranged thematically. Here are colorful descriptions of deities, creation myths, depictions of death and the afterlife, teachings on the relationship between humanity and the sacred, religious rituals

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Overview

Originally published as From Primitives to Zen, this comprehensive anthology contains writings vital to all the major non-Western religious traditions, arranged thematically. Here are colorful descriptions of deities, creation myths, depictions of death and the afterlife, teachings on the relationship between humanity and the sacred, religious rituals and practices, and prayers and hymns.

Mircea Eliade, a recognized pioneer in the systematic study of the history of the world's religions, includes excerpts from the Quran, the Book of the Dead, the Rig Veda, the Bhagavad Gita, the Homeric Hymns, and the Popol Vuh, to name just a few. Oral accounts from Native American, African, Maori, Australian, Aborigine, and other peoples are also included.

Here is fascinating reading for anyone interested in the world's religions and myths. In an outstanding collection, Eliade demonstrates humanity's diversity as well as the universal threads that unite us all.

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Editorial Reviews

Booknews
Originally published in 1967 as From primitives to Zen; a thematic sourcebook of the history of religions (Harper & Row), and subsequently in 1974 and 1977, this anthology presents religious documents according to themes and topics, with a cross-reference index to regions of the world. Judaism and Christianity are not included, Eliade having decided to keep the price and bulk of the book under control by not reproducing the well-known texts of the Old and New Testaments. Annotation c. Book News, Inc., Portland, OR (booknews.com)

Product Details

ISBN-13:
9780062503046
Publisher:
HarperCollins Publishers
Publication date:
12/28/1991
Edition description:
Reprint
Pages:
672
Product dimensions:
6.12(w) x 9.25(h) x 1.68(d)

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Chapter One A. Divinities Of Primitives(Pre-Literate Societies)I. Australian Supernatural Beings

Beliefs of tribes of Southeast Australia.

The following are the beliefs of the Kulin as they appear in their legends, and from the statements of surviving Wurunjerri to me. Bunjil, as represented by them, seems to be an old man, the benign Ngurungaeta or Headman of the tribe, with his two wives, who were Ganawarra (Black Swan), and his son Binbeal, the rainbow, whose wife was the second rainbow which is sometimes visible. Bunjil taught the Kulin the arts of life, and one legend states that in that time the Kulin married without any regard for kinship. Two medicine-men (Wirrarap) went up to him in the Tharangalk-bek, and he said in reply to their request that the Kulin should divide themselves into two parts — 'Bunjil on this side and Waang on that side, and Bunjil should marry Waang and Waang marry Bunjil.'

Another legend relates that he [Bunjil] finally went up to the skyland with all his people (the legend says his 'sons') in a whirlwind, which Bellin-bellin (the Musk-crow) let out of his skin bag at his order. There, as the old men instructed the boys, he still remains, looking down on the Kulin. A significant instance of this belief is, that Berak, when a boy, 'before his whiskers grew,' was taken by his Kangun (mother's brother) out of the camp at night, who, pointing to the star Altair with his spear-thrower, said: 'See! that one is Bunjil; you see him,and he sees you.' This was before Batman settled on the banks of the Yarra River,and is conclusive as to the primitive character of this belief....

Usually Bunjil was spoken of as Mami-ngata, that is 'Our Father,' instead of by the other name Bunjil.

It is a striking phase in the legends about him that the human element preponderates over the animal element. In fact, I cannot see any trace of the latter in him, for he is in all cases the old black-fellow, and not, the eagle-hawk, which his name denotes; while another actor may be the kangaroo, the spiny ant-eater, or the crane, and as much animal as human....

Among the Kurnai, under the influence of the initiation ceremonies, the knowledge of the being who is the equivalent of Bunjil is almost entirely restricted to the initiated men. The old women know that there is a supernatural being in the sky, but only as Mungan-ngaua, 'our father.' It is only at the last and the most secret part of the ceremonies that the novices are made aware of the teachings as to Mungan-ngaua, and this is the only name for this being used by the Kurnai....

The conception of Baiame may, be seen from Ridley's statements, and so far as I now quote them, may be accepted as sufficiently accurate. I have omitted the colouring which appears to be derived from his mental bias as a missionary to blacks. He says that Baiame is the name in Kamilaroi of the maker (from Biai, 'to make or build') who created and preserves all things. Generally invisible, he has, they believe, appeared in human form, and has bestowed on their race various gifts.

The following is the statement of one of the early settlers in the Kamilaroi country, and, I think, gives the aboriginal idea of Baiame free from any tinge derived from our beliefs. If you ask a Kamilaroi man 'Who made that?' referring* to something, he replies, 'Baiame deah,' that is 'Baiame, I suppose.' It is said that Baiame came from the westward long ago to Golarinbri on the Barwon, and stayed there four or five days, when he went away to the eastward with his two wives. They believe that some time he will return again....

The belief in Daramulun, the 'father,' and Biamban, or 'master,' is common to all of the tribes who attend the Yuin Kuringal. I have described them at length in chapter IX, and may now summarize the teachings of the ceremonies. Long ago Daramulun lived on the earth with his mother Ngalalbal. Originally the earth was bare 'like the sky, as hard as a stone,' and the land extended far out where the sea is now. There were no men or women, but only animals, birds, and reptiles. He placed trees on the earth. After Kaboka, the thrush, had caused a great flood on the earth, which covered all the coast country, there were no people left, excepting some who crawled out of the water on to Mount Dromedary. Then Daramulun went up to the sky, where he lives and watches the actions of men. It was he who first made the Kuringal and the bull-roarer, the sound of which represents his voice. He told the Yuin what to do, and he gave them the laws which the old people have handed down from father to son to this time. He gives the Gommeras their power to use the Joias, and other magic. When a man dies and his Tulugal (spirit) goes away, it is Daramulun who meets it and takes care of it. It is a man's shadow which goes up to Daramulun....

It seems quite clear that Nurrundere, Nurelli, Bunjil, Munganngaua, Daramulun, and Baiame all represent the same being under different names. To this may be reasonably added Koin of the Lake Macquarie tribes, Maamba, Birral, and Kohin of those on the Herbert River, thus extending the range of this belief certainly over the whole of Victoria and of New South Wales,' up to the eastern boundaries of the tribes of the Darling River. If the Queensland coast tribes are included, then the western bounds might be indicated by a line drawn from the mouth of the Murray River to Cardwell, including the Great Dividing Range, with some of the fall inland in New South Wales.

Essential Sacred Writings from Around the World. Copyright © by Mircea Eliade. Reprinted by permission of HarperCollins Publishers, Inc. All rights reserved. Available now wherever books are sold.

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Meet the Author

Mircea Eliade founded the modern study of the history of religions and wrote many books, including Essential Sacred Writings from Around the World and The Sacred and the Profane.

Ioan P. Couliano was the professional heir to Mircea Eliade and the author of Out of This World and The Tree of Gnosis.

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