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Tutelary spirit

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Tutelary spirit

A tutelary (also tutelar) is a deity or spirit who is a guardian, patron or protector of a particular place, geographic feature, person, lineage, nation, culture or occupation. Both tutelary and tutelar can be used as either a noun or an adjective.

One type of tutelary deity is the genius, the personal deity or daimon of an individual from birth to death. Pierre A. Riffard defines a tutelary spirit as either the genius (present since birth) or a familiar spirit.[1]

Near East and Mediterranean

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Ancient Greece

Socrates spoke of hearing the voice of his personal spirit or daimonion:

You have often heard me speak of an oracle or sign which comes to me …. This sign I have had ever since I was a child. The sign is a voice which comes to me and always forbids me to do something which I am going to do, but never commands me to do anything, and this is what stands in the way of my being a politician.[2]

The Greeks also thought deities guarded specific places: for instance, Athena was the patron goddess of the city of Athens.

Ancient Rome

Tutelary deities who guard and preserve a place or a person are fundamental to ancient Roman religion. The tutelary deity of an individual was his Genius, or that of a woman her Juno.[3] In the Imperial era, the Genius of the Emperor was a focus of Imperial cult. An emperor might also adopt a major deity as his personal patron or tutelary,[4] as Augustus did Apollo.[5] Precedents for claiming the personal protection of a deity were established in the Republican era, when for instance the Roman dictator Sulla advertised the goddess Victory as his tutelary by holding public games (ludi) in her honor.[6]

Each town or city had one or more tutelary deities, whose protection was considered particularly vital in time of war and siege. Rome itself was protected by a goddess whose name was to be kept ritually secret on pain of death (for a supposed case, see Quintus Valerius Soranus).[7] The Capitoline Triad of Juno, Jupiter, and Minerva were also tutelaries of Rome.[8] The Italic towns had their own tutelary deities. Juno often had this function, as at the Latin town of Lanuvium and the Etruscan city of Veii,[9] and was often housed in an especially grand temple on the arx (citadel) or other prominent or central location.[10] The tutelary deity of Praeneste was Fortuna, whose oracle was renowned.[11]

The Roman ritual of evocatio was premised on the belief that a town could be made vulnerable to military defeat if the power of its tutelary deity were diverted outside the city, perhaps by the offer of superior cult at Rome.[12] The depiction of some goddesses such as the Magna Mater (Great Mother, or Cybele) as "tower-crowned" represents their capacity to preserve the city.[13] A town in the provinces might adopt a deity from within the Roman religious sphere to serve as its guardian, or syncretize its own tutelary with such; for instance, a community within the civitas of the Remi in Gaul adopted Apollo as its tutelary, and at the capital of the Remi (present-day Rheims), the tutelary was Mars Camulus.[14]


Tutelary deities were also attached to sites of a much smaller scale, such as storerooms, crossroads, and granaries. Each Roman home had a set of protective deities: the Lar or Lares of the household or familia, whose shrine was a lararium; the Penates who guarded the storeroom (penus) of the innermost part of the house; Vesta, whose sacred site in each house was the hearth; and the Genius of the paterfamilias, the head of household.[15] The poet Martial lists the tutelary deities who watch over various aspects of his farm.[16] The architecture of a granary (horreum) featured niches for images of the tutelary deities, who might include the genius loci or guardian spirit of the site, Hercules, Silvanus, Fortuna Conservatrix ("Fortuna the Preserver") and in the Greek East Aphrodite and Agathe Tyche.[17]

The Lares Compitales were the tutelary gods of a neighborhood (vicus), each of which had a compitum (shrine) devoted to these.[18] During the Republic, the cult of local or neighborhood tutelaries sometimes became rallying points for political and social unrest.

Asia

  • Chinese folk religion, both past and present, includes a myriad of tutelary deities. Exceptional individuals may become deified after death. Guan Yu is a well-known tutelary from the Three Kingdoms period. See City god (China).
  • In Shinto, the spirits, or kami, which give life to human bodies come from nature and return to it after death. Ancestors are therefore themselves tutelaries to be worshiped.

Kuladevis include:

  • Thai provincial capitals have tutelary city pillars and palladiums. The guardian spirit of a house is known as Chao Thi or Phra Phum. Almost every house in Bangkok has a miniature shrine housing this tutelary deity, known as a spirit house.

Americas

Native American religion, (see also Animism, Shamanism) has extensive and varied systems of zoomorphic tutelaries, (also known as power animals). In Mesoamerica these tutelary power animals are called Nagual in the Aztec language and Uay in the Maya language.

Michael Harner describes tutelary spirits among the Jivaro (Shuar people):

The tsentsak, these spirit helpers, or darts, are the main supernatural forces believed to cause illness and death in daily life. To the non-shaman they are normally invisible, and even shamans can perceive them only under the influence of natema (a hallucinogenic drink). Shamans send those spirit helpers into the victims' bodies to make them ill or to kill them. At other times, they may suck spirits sent by enemy shamans from the bodies of tribesmen suffering from witchcraft induced illness. The spirit helpers also form shields that protect their shaman masters from attacks. According to Jivaro concepts, each tsentsak has a natural and supernatural aspect. The magical darts natural aspect is that of an ordinary material object as seen without drinking the drug natema. But the supernatural and true aspect of the tsentsak is revealed to the shaman by taking natema. When he does this, the magical darts appear in new forms as demons and with new names. In their supernatural aspects, the tsentsak are not simply objects but spirit helpers in various forms, such as giant butterflies, jaguars, or monkeys, who actively assist the shaman in his tasks.[19]

Africa

In many of the animistic African religions, tutelaries appear in a variety of forms. The Binou cult of the Dogon people of Mali have totems around their villages.

See also

References

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