mana

(noun) A sacred and essential supernatural force that resides in all people, places, and things (objects).

Example: A charm worn to influence the probability of success while gambling or hunting possesses mana.

Audio Pronunciation: (ma·na)

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Usage Notes:

  • This is a simplified definition of a vast continuum of societal and cultural concepts.
  • Robert Henry Codrington (1830–1922) studied mana in The Melanesians: Studies in their Anthropology and Folk-Lore (1891). Codrington’s ethnography began anthropology’s fascination with the topic.
  • Animatism, coined by Robert Marrett (1866–1943) in The Threshold of Religion (1909) was a criticism of Edward Tylor’s (1832–1917) concept of animism from Primitive Culture (1871). Marret developed the concept of animatism based on the work of Codrington. Marret contended that animatism is the earliest form of religion and a precursor to animism in a cultural developmental context.  In addition to the The Threshold of Religion (1909), Marret continued to explore mana in Anthropology (1912), and Psychology and Folklore (1920).
  • According to many animistic traditions, all things have souls or a spirits inside them and they can interact with humans in positive and negative ways.
  • Mana used in a sentence: Anthropologists are fascinated by the concept of mana as interpreted by various cultures.

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