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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 Electronic Encyclopedia, 6th ed. Copyright © 2012, Columbia University Press. All rights reserved.

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