Christian Cyclopedia

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Ancestor Worship

(Manism). Worship of dead ancestors based on universal belief in the existence of an immaterial part of man that leaves the body at death. The deceased is also believed to have the same kindly interest in the affairs of the living as when alive and to interfere in the course of events for the welfare of the family or clan; or he may bring diseases, storms, or other misfortunes on them if his worship is neglected.

In ancient Rome, ancestor worship was a family religion. Masks or images, embodying the manes, i. e., the spirits of the deceased, who had become gods of the lower world, were set up in homes, altars erected, sacrifices made, and prayers offered to them in the same way as to the penates, the protecting spirits of the household. The Hindus bring sacrifices to the pitris (patres), the divine spirits of deceased ancestors, and implore them for assistance.

In China, ancestor worship is a general occurence. Tablets of wood bearing deceased's name and dates of birth and death are found in most homes; incense and spirit money are burned before them. From China, ancestor worship passed to Jap., where it also became firmly established.

Besides actual worship of spirits of the deceased, there has been among many races the custom of supplying the dead with things they enjoyed while alive. Among some savage races the dead man's wife, servants, and favorite animals were killed or buried alive with their former master.

Assoc. with ancestor worship is belief in possibility of communicating with spirits of the dead and obtaining their counsel and help in times of danger and misfortune through the agency of medicine men, wizards, or seers. There is also a wifely prevalent belief that ancestors are reincarnated in newborn children.

See also Reincarnation; Slavs, Primitive Religion of; Spencer, Herbert; Spiritism; Transmigration of Souls.

See Religion, Comparative, bibliography.

Edited by: Erwin L. Lueker, Luther Poellot, Paul Jackson
©Concordia Publishing House, 2000, All rights Reserved. Reproduced with Permission

Internet Version Produced by
The Lutheran Church--Missouri Synod

Original Editions ©Copyright 1954, 1975, 2000
Concordia Publishing House
All rights reserved.

Content Reproduced with Permission

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