The Primitive Mind and Modern Man

Indexed in: Scopus, EBSCO

This book is in the field of cultural anthropology and transcultural psychology, and is intended for college courses in anthropology and psychology, and general readership. The book focuses on ...
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Pp. 37-48 (12)

John Alan Cohan


The idea of mana permeates the customs of many cultures, including modern cultures. Mana provides the theoretical basis for such beliefs as animism, totemism, witchcraft, and sorcery. Mana is the means by which power is transmitted from one being to another. It means, roughly speaking, power, but a force altogether distinct from physical power-a power associated with a spirit, a totemic ancestor, or other supernatural agency. All things are thought to possess a “vital essence” that can be transferred by contact. Mana is thought to be expressed most notably through thoughts and words, and this is evident in shamanic healing, folk medicine, or simply prayer intended for healing. The conviction of a person uttering an incantation is thought to be an element relating to the efficacy of a prayer, curse or ritual. There is widespread belief that mana subsists in names, as well as in artifacts, tools and weapons. A club or spear of a great warrior, for example, is the abode of powerful mana. Objects such as amulets and charms are thought to be imbued with mana, either intrinsically, or after being consecrated for certain purposes, usually for the purpose of averting evil or to secure good fortune.


Western State Law School USA.