Native Religions and Cultures of Central and South America
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The New World came into being in the Europeans' encounter with the indigenous religions and cultures of Central and South America. Yet these religions remain little known or are filtered through inadequate categories such as "animism," "superstition," or "syncretism." In this volume, an international group of the finest authorities working on the subject provide rich descriptions and provocative interpretations of religious ideas rarely gathered in one place. Since an exhaustive treatment would be impossible (it is estimated that there could be as many as fifteen thousand different South American languages living or extinct), the aim is to illustrate something of the range of religious beliefs and practices through cases that are exemplary. The first part of the book describes the religious views of the Aztec, Maya, and Inca, dating from the time prior to contact with Europeans. The rest of the book treats contemporary cases from the major cultural and geographical areas of Central and South America. Whether the focus is on myth, architecture, ritual celebrations, or shamanic practice, each essay provides a distinctive profile of the culture in question.