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Good-death Beliefs and Cognition in Himalayan Pilgrimage

Journal article
Authors Andreas Nordin
Published in Method & Theory in the Study of Religion
Volume Volume 21
Issue Number 4
Pages 402 - 436
ISSN 0943-3058
Publication year 2009
Published at School of Global Studies, Social Anthropology
Pages 402 - 436
Language en
Keywords Hindu pilgrimage; cognition; death; good-death beliefs
Subject categories Social Anthropology, Other Humanities not elsewhere specified, Psychology, Philosophy, Ethics and Religion


This article discusses the notions of a good death associated with Hindu pilgrimages in the Nepalese and Tibetan Himalayas. Using theories and concepts from the cognitive anthropology of religion and from the cognitive science of religion—particularly the cultural epidemiological method—my objective is to explain why certain systems of thought and behaviour are favoured over others in cultural transmission. My thesis is that the apprehension of contagion and/or contamination, combined with prevailing cultural representations, exerts selective pressure on the formation of beliefs about good death. Pilgrimage sites are associated with intuitions about contagious and contaminating contact, avert the pollution of death, and provide links to supernatural agents.

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