Sara Swenson explores how concepts of Buddhist community are spatially configured among a diverse population at Great Pines Monastery (GPM). In this paper, she explores how GPM operates as several different simultaneous “sacred spaces” using Edward Soja’s theory of thirdspace. GPM’s proximity to Denver marks it as a uniquely urban sacred space, and how the space serves to reaffirm two distinct but shared community identities for its Vietnamese and English-speaking communities.
Jonathan Thumas explores the Japanese conch shell trumpet associated with practitioners of Shugendo. By studying some different trumpets in museum collections, he argues that their sonic and apotropaic power in rituals and their status in the popular imagination reinforces their use as talismans.
Mikael Aktor reviews the panel he co-organised on Aniconism at the 2015 IAHR World Conference in Erfurt, Germany.
Anicionic objects from different religious traditions together form a broad category of religious material sources. In fact, it seems both too broad and incoherent. It includes clearly recognizable depictions of wheels, fish, phalli, unmanufactured objects and elements in the natural environment such as unwrought stones, trees, rivers and mountains, fashioned objects, such as stelai and logs, as well as empty spaces, such as vacant seats, and empty rooms. While all of these objects are described as ‘aniconic’ at least in some religious traditions, they differ dramatically in their religious agency and manner of mediating divine presence. A South Asian river can be a Hindu goddess, while it is hardly an image of her. Similarly, a black meteorite could be described as Cybele the mother goddess, yet it does not seem to articulate a vision of the divinity’s imagined appearance. At the same time, a river and a stone have markedly different physical and visual relations to their viewers and worshippers as well as the deities to which they are linked. In order to explore the range of aniconism, Mikael Aktor and Milette Gaifman organised a panel at the 21st World Congress of the International Association for the History of Religions (IAHR)to discuss these questions.