Ancestor Worship

ancestor worship, ritualized propitiation and invocation of dead kin. Ancestor worship is based on the belief that the spirits of the dead continue to dwell in the natural world and have the power to influence the fortune and fate of the living. Ancestor worship has been found in various parts of the world and in diverse cultures. It was a minor cult among the Romans (see manes). The practice reached its highest elaboration in W Africa and in the ancient Chinese veneration of ancestors. It is also well developed in the Japanese Shinto cult and among the peoples of Melanesia. See apotheosis; totem.

See J. G. Frazer, The Belief in Immortality and the Worship of the Dead (3 vol., 1913–24, repr. 1968).

The Columbia Encyclopedia, 6th ed. Copyright© 2013, The Columbia University Press.

Selected full-text books and articles on this topic

FREE! The Belief in Immortality and the Worship of the Dead
J. G. Frazer.
MacMillan, vol.1, 1913
The Universality of Ancestor Worship
Steadman, Lyle B.; Palmer, Craig T.; Tilley, Christopher F.
Ethnology, Vol. 35, No. 1, Winter 1996
Lineage Organization in Southeastern China
Maurice Freedman.
University of London, Athlone Press, 1958
Librarian’s tip: Chap. 11 "Ancestor Worship and Lineage Structure"
Americans and Chinese: Passage to Differences
Francis L. K. Hsu.
University of Hawaii Press, 1981 (3rd edition)
Librarian’s tip: "Ancestor Worship" begins on p. 248
Macau: A Cultural Janus
Christina Miu Bing Cheng.
Hong Kong University Press, 1999
Librarian’s tip: "Ancestor Worship and Chinese Reactions to Christianity" begins on p. 62
Ancestor Worship and Korean Society
Dawnhee Yim Janelli.
Stanford University, 1982
Shamans, Housewives, and Other Restless Spirits: Women in Korean Ritual Life
Laurel Kendall.
University of Hawaii Press, 1987
The Potent Dead: Ancestors, Saints, and Heroes in Contemporary Indonesia
Henri Chambert-Loir; Anthony Reid.
Allen & Unwin, 2002
Ancestor Worship and Identity: Ritual, Interpretation, and Social Normalization in the Malaysian Chinese Community
Clarke, Ian.
SOJOURN: Journal of Social Issues in Southeast Asia, Vol. 15, No. 2, October 2000
The Heathens: Primitive Man and His Religions
William Howells.
Doubleday, 1962
Librarian’s tip: Chap. 11 "Ancestor Worship"
Is Taiwan Chinese? The Impact of Culture, Power, and Migration on Changing Identities
Melissa J. Brown.
University of California Press, 2004
Librarian’s tip: Discussion of ancestor worship begins on p. 192
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