This collaboration between two scholars from different fields of religious studies draws on three comparative data sets to develop a new theory of purity and pollution in religion, arguing that a culture's beliefs about cosmological realms shapes its pollution ideas and its purification practices.
The authors of this study refine Mary Douglas' foundational theory of pollution as "matter out of place," using a comparative approach to make the case that a culture's cosmology designates which materials in which places constitute pollution. By bringing together a historical comparison of Ancient Near Eastern and Mediterranean religions, an ethnographic study of indigenous shamanism on Jeju Island, Korea, and the reception history of biblical rhetoric about pollution in Jewish and Christian cultures, the authors show that a cosmological account of purity works effectively across multiple disparate religious and cultural contexts. They conclude that cosmologies reinforce fears of pollution, and also that embodied experiences of purification help generate cosmological ideas.
Providing an innovative insight into a key topic of ritual studies, this book will be of vital interest to scholars and graduate students in religion, biblical studies, and anthropology.