Material Culture of Religion: Glossary of (selected) Religious Terms, Concepts, People, Etc. A ad

madahu (Hausa) Muslim (African): A category of Hausa Islamic verse. madhhab


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madahu (Hausa)
Muslim (African): A category of Hausa Islamic verse.

madhhab (Arabic: "belief", "school of thought")
Muslim (Sunni): Denotes one of the four accepted legal schools (Hanafi, Hanbali, Maliki an Shafi'i)

Madonna (=”Our Lady”)
Christian ( Roman Catholic): A popular term for representations of Mary.

Magen David
Jewish: see Star of David.

Indian subcontinent: The eleventh month of the (solar) calendar; the others are Chaitra, Vaishaaka, Jyeshta, Aashaadha, Sraavana, Bhaadrapada, Aaswayuja, Kaartika, Maargasira, Pushya and Phaalguna.

Magha Puja Day
Buddhist (holiday): The celebration of the presentation of teachings by Buddha to an assembly of holy men.

Sikh (holiday): The commemoration of a battle in which forty Sikhs died for Guru Gobindh Singh Ji.

maghreb (= maghrib) (Arabic: "sunset")

  1. One of the five daily prayers.

  2. North Africa, the "land of the setting sun" west of Arabia.

Zoroastrian: Priests.

Maha Shivaratri
Hindu (holiday): The festival in honor of Lord Shiva and his marriage to Goddess Parvati.

Hindu: Epic which contains the long poem Bhagavad-Gita.


  1. Hindu: A “great soul” or saint.

  2. Common usage: Title given to Mohandas Gandhi by Rabindramath Tagore, a Nobel-prize-winning novelist.

Mahavir Jayanti
Jain (holiday): The festival honoring Mahavira's birthday.

Mahavira ("the great hero")
Jain: The title for the founder of Jainism who lived in northern India between ca. 599-527 BCE.

Mahayana (Sanskrit: "great vehicle " or "great raft")

Buddhist: The larger of the two major schools of Buddhism (the other, the Hinayana, is a collective and pejorative term for all those schools which preceded the rise of the Mahayana around the 1st century CE.).

mahdi (Arabic: "divinely guided one")

  1. Muslim: The person who has been sent by God to re-establish justice on earth before the end of time.

  2. Muslim: A messianic figure with millenarian and eschatological implications who has appeared at various stages in Islamic history. Mahdism is the belief that a divinely guided restorer of Islam will establish a prophetic kingdom at the end of history. The best-known person claiming the title of mahdi was Al Imam Muhammad Ahmad Al Mahdi, a Muslim warrior who fought the British in the Sudan in the 1880s, defeating General Gordon at Khartoum.

  3. Muslim: The returning savior; the second coming of Jesus.

  4. Muslim (Shi'ite): The Twelfth Imam, born 260 AH (873 CE).

Hindu: Another name for Shiva.

mahr (Arabic)
Muslim: The dowry given by the groom to his wife at the time of their marriage.

mahram (Arabic)
Muslim: The boundary of close blood relationship within which it is forbidden to marry and thus lawful for members of the opposite sex to socialize (for example, brothers and sisters, aunts and nephews).

Zoroastrian (holiday): The mid summer feast relating to the creation of the waters.

Maidyarem Gahambar
Zoroastrian (holiday): A winter feast.

Buddhist: The term denoting the "future Buddha".

majlis (Arabic: "assembly", "parliament")

  1. Muslim: An assembly.

  2. Muslim (Shi'ite): Mourning assembly consisting of a recitation by a zakir consisting of an expository discourse followed by the gham.

majlis as-shura (=majlis i-shura; Arabic)
Muslim: Consultative body; elected council.

Makar Sankranti (=Lohri)

  1. Hindu (Hindu Swayamsevak Sangh) (holiday): This festival, in January, marks the beginning of the end of winter, and the end of the winter month known as Poush. It is the last festival of the Hindu solar year.

  2. Hindu: The celebration marking turning of the sun toward the north.

Hindu/Buddhist: A mythical crocodile, often depicted on toranas.

makhzan (Arabic)
Muslim (African): A type of Islamic military administration.

(see Mecca)

makoto (Japanese)
Shinto: A core belief referring to sincerity or true heart.

Muslim: Something that is discouraged or disliked on religious grounds.

malam (pl. malamai; Hausa)
Muslim (African): Equivalent to alim.

mali (Nepalese)
Hindu: A Newar caste of gardeners.

malik (Arabic?: "king")

Maliki (=Malikite, =Malekite; Arabic)

  1. Muslim (Sunni): Adherent of madhhab named after Malik Ibn Anas, d. 795.

  2. Muslim: Followers of one of the four major shari'a schools.

malleus maleficarum (Latin)
Christian: The just punishments to be meted out for witchcraft. (See also witch.)

mamluk (Turkish?: "owned")
  1. Muslim (Ottoman): A slave trained to be a soldier; especially applied to those of Turkish or Circassian origin.

  2. Common usage: Denotes dynasties of rulers in Egypt and Iraq comprised of mamluks and descendants.

mandylion (Aramaic? "little handkerchief")

  1. Christian: The cloth which Joseph of Arimathea and Nicodemus used to cover Jesus' face in the tomb after the crucifixion that took an imprint of the face.

  2. Christian (Eastern Orthodox): "According to ancient legend, King Abgar of Edessa, (now Urfa in Turkey), was a leper. He sent his archivist named Hannan (or Ananias) to Galilee with a letter to Jesus, beseeching Him to come to Edessa and heal him. Hannan was a painter and had orders to make a portrait of the Lord in case he refused to come. Hannan came upon Jesus in the midst of a large crowd. He tried to make a portrait but could not. Seeing Hannan’s need, Jesus asked for some water, washed himself, and wiping His face on a linen cloth, imprinted it with his features. When Abgar beheld the cloth, his leprosy was cured, although his scars remained. After Pentecost, the apostle Thaddeus, one of the seventy, went to Edessa and completed Abgar’s cure and conversion to Christianity." []

  3. Christian (Eastern Orthodox)(=achieropoietos from the Greek: "not made by human hands") : A particular iconographic style for portraits of Jesus said to derive from a face cloth used by Jesus.

  4. Christian (Knights Templar): A cloth with an imprint of Jesus' face acquired by the Order in the 13th century (in 1204, during the 4th Crusade) that became an object of veneration and secret ritual.

  5. Christian: The cloth is said to be or have inspired the creation of the Shroud of Turin, and also is said to be the same as the Veil of St. Veronica..

Manjushri (Nepalese)

Buddhist: The legendary patriarch of the Kathmandu Valley, now often regarded as the God of learning.

Mankind United
New Age: Sect in existence from about 1934-9; see Mankind United.

mantra (Sanskrit)
Hindu/Buddhist: An incantational formula designed for ritual use, with or without semantic meaning.

Buddhist (Tibetan): Demon-king.

Marie de Saint-Clair
Priory of Sion: Second Grand Master; b. 1192, Scotland.

Muslim (Shi'ite): Gnosis, which follows the love and fear of God.

Marion Vincent Goddard
See Goddard, Marion Vincent.

marja'i taqlid (=marja-i-taqlid; Arabic: "source of emulation")

  1. Muslim: A supreme authority on law.

  2. Muslim: A mujtahid whose practices and pronouncements furnish a binding example on those unable to exert independent judgment in matters relating to religious law.

  3. Muslim (Shi'ite): Title given to the most renowned mujtahids.

Christian: A sect, founded in Lebanon, that has been in communication with Roman Catholicism since the 17th Century. NOTE: its members are Arab in language and culture.

Jewish/Christian: Spanish Jews who openly converted to Christianity but who secretly continued to practice Judaism (esp. in Renaissance times). Derived from a Spanish word meaning "swine".

Marshall Herff Applewhite
See Applewhite, Marshall Herff.

Martin Luther
See Luther, Martin

Martin Luther King
NOTE: This man is the father of Martin Luther King Jr.
See King, Martin Luther.

Martin Luther King Jr.

Martinmas (=St. Martin's Day)
Christian (holiday): Celebrated 10 November. In medieval Europe, it was the traditional day on which to slaughter animals to salt for winter eating.

martyr (Greek: witness)

  1. Common usage: [incomplete]

  2. Christian (esp. Roman Catholic): A person who, for the Christian faith, freely and patiently suffers death at the hands of a persecutor.

Martyrdom of...

  1. Baha'i / Martyrdom of the Bab: Ali Muhammed was executed in 1850 by Persian political and religious powers.

  2. Sikh / Martyrdom of Guru Arjan Dev: A time of remembering those who have suffered for the faith.

  3. Christian / Martyrdom of John the Baptist: Remembrance of the beheading of John the Baptist by King Herod.


Christian/Muslim: The mother of Jesus.

masha'allah (Arabic: "may it please God")
Muslim: Common interjection.

Mason, C.H.
Christian: Founder of Church of God in Christ in Lexington, Miss., approx. 1895.

Christian (Roman Catholic): The central ritual, commemorating the death and resurrection of Jesus Christ.

Master KH
See Koot Hoom

Christian: First part of the daily prayer time schedule; nighttime/pre-dawn; 2 or 3 a.m.

matn (Arabic)
Muslim: The text of a hadith.

matsuri (Japanese)
Shinto: A worship activity or festival.


Hindu: Incarnation of Vishnu in the form of a fish.

Muslim: Followers of the theological school named after Maturidi (d. 944).

Jain (holiday): A day of fasting, silence, and meditation on the five holy teachers.

Maundy Thursday
[incomplete; coordinate with Holy Thursday; date of the first Lord's Supper]

mawali (Arabic)
Muslim: Non-Arab subjects living under an Islamic government.

mawla (Arabic: "master", "friend")

mawlid (Arabic)
Common usage: birthday celebration, esp. of Muhammad or another Muslim holy man.

Mawlid al-Nabi (Arabic)
Muslim: Muhammad's birthday, celebrated on Rabi' I, 12. [incomplete]

Maximilian de Lorraine

  1. French nobleman: b. 1756. Also known as Maximillian von Hapsburg.

  2. Priory of Sion: Grand Master.

May Day
Common usage: Celebration of arrival of spring, esp. with partying and drinking.

May Eve
(see, Beltane)

May Otis Blackburn
See Blackburn, May Otis.

maya (Sanskrit: "illusion")
Hindu: A term for reality as perceived by the unenlightened.

Zoroastrian: Worship; the Good Religion.

Meatfare Sunday (=Judgment Sunday)
Christian (Eastern Orthodox): An observance, two weeks before the Great Lent, which is the last day for eating of meat until Easter.

Mecca (=Makkah; place name)

  1. Muslim: The holiest city; located on the Arabian Peninsula in what is now Saudi Arabia. It is towards Mecca that prayers are directed, and to Mecca that the obligatory pilgrimage is made.

  2. Common usage: A focal point, esp. a geographic or physical location.

Medha (=Medha Devi)
Hindu: Goddess denoting intellect.

Medha Devi
Hindu: See Medha.

Medina (place name; =Medinat al-nabi; in pre-Islamic times, Yathrib)
Muslim: Holy city located on the Arabian Peninsula in what is now Saudi Arabia. It is the site of Mohammed's grave and was the first city to come under the banner of Islam."

Melchite (=Melkite)
Christian: A Middle Eastern sect that broke from Greek Orthodox and is in communion with Roman Catholicism (specifically, Greek Catholicism). NOTE: its members are Arab in language and culture.


  1. American ethnic group in Appalachian Tennessee and Kentucky (probably) descended from Spanish and Portuguese settlers of Santa Elena Colony in 16th Century South Carolina and a group of Moors who were set ashore at Roanoke Island in 1586 by Sir Francis Drake. (Possibly) also called "Mecca Indians".

  2. Muslim (Portuguese): "Melungo" is a word used to describe Portuguese Muslims.

  3. Muslim: "Melun jinn" is Arabic for "cursed spirit"

  4. Muslim: "Melun cنn" is Turkish for "damned soul"

African ethnic society centered in Sierra Leone whose monotheistic worship centers on Ngewo.

Meng Zi (= Meng-Tzu) (Chinese: "The Book of Mencius")

  1. Confucian: One of the Four Books.

  2. Confucian: The name of the philosopher (371-289 BCE) who comes closest to the thought of Confucius himself.

mental image pictures

Scientologist: Three-dimensional pictures which are continuously made by the mind, moment by moment, containing color, sound and smell, as well as other perceptions. They also include the conclusions or speculations of the individual. Mental image pictures are composed of energy, have mass, exist in space and follow definite routines of behavior.

merkabah (Hebrew: “chariot”)
Jewish: An esoteric tradition of mysticism that grew up around attempts to see the vision of God sitting upon a chariot-like vehicle drawn by four living creatures as recorded in the first chapter of Ezekiel. This tradition contributed to the development of Kabbalah.

Hindu: The mountain at the center of the world, which separates heaven and earth. Hindu temples (especially in India) have been compared to mountains of stone, and often are intended to invoke an image of Meru.

Messiah (Hebrew: “anointed one”)

  1. Jewish: A term generally used in reference to a recognized king.

  2. Jewish/Christian: The legitimate successor to King David.

  3. Christian: =Christ.

Scientologist: A word coined from the initial letters of matter, energy, space and time, which are the component parts (elements) of the physical universe.


  1. Taoist: One of the Five Elements that form physical and spiritual reality. Associated with lungs, large intestine, autumn, spicy, white, Venus and (the direction) West.

metanoia (Greek)
The process of exchanging a debilitating lifestyle for one that allows psychic survival.

The subdiscipline of philosophy concerned with ontology, cosmology and theology.

Christian (holiday): St. Michael's Day; celebrated 29 September.

Mid-Autumn Festival
Chinese: See Moon Cake Festival.

Midsummer Eve
Common usage: Celebration of the summer solstice.

middle knowledge

Knowledge (esp. knowledge attributed to God) of what would have happened if things had been different, or what someone would have chosen in situations that never actually occurred.

Midrash (Hebrew: "searching")

  1. Jewish: A tradition of biblical exegesis found in rabbinical literature. It may be either Halakhic (see halakha): interpreting and applying the legal and ritual norms of the Bible, or Aggadic (see aggadah): expounding theological and ethnical teachings on the basis of a biblical text.

  2. Jewish: Rabbinic method of exegesis.

  3. Jewish: Works in which expositions in the Midrashic manner are collected.

  4. Jewish: The rabbis' homiletic "interpretations" and embellishments of the Bible.

  5. Jewish: Midrash developed both within and alongside the Talmud, so that collections given over to rabbinic folklore are also called Midrash.

miko (Japanese)
Shinto: A female officiant at a shrine; these young women who are dedicated to the service of the kami. The kamiko are trained to assist the priests and perform the sacred dances. The ichiko evolved spontaneously as mediums or shamans.

Mikulلs bلcsi (Hungarian)
Christian (Hungary): Santa Claus (derived from St. Nicholas legends).

Mikulلs Nap (Hungarian)
Christian (Hungary): St. Nicholas Day (6 December). The Hungarian Santa, called Mikulلs, (Me-ku-lash) visits children on December 6th, St. Nicholas' Day, which is the name day of "Miklَs."

millat (=millet; Arabic?: "community", "nation")
Muslim (Ottoman): An officially recognized religious community.

Christian: The belief in a future 1,000-year period of Jesus Christ's rule on earth. Pre-millennialists believe it will follow the Second Coming of Christ, post-millennialists that it will prepare for that coming by spreading righteousness over the earth.

Milvian Bridge Day

Christian: A day of solemn reflection on the relationship of the spiritual community and the powers of civil government. On Oct 28, 312 c.e., Emperor Constantine prevailed in a battle and proceeded to make Christianity the legal religion of the Roman Empire. See: Milvian Bridge event.

mimamsa ("investigation")
Hindu: The systematic hermeneutics of the Vedic scriptures.

mi'raj (Arabic)
Muslim: The heavenly ascension of Muhammad.

Miranda, R.A.
New Age: Founder (about 1934) of Central Spiritual Resurrection in Los Angeles, Calif.

Mirza Husayn-Ali (also known as Baha'u'llah)
Baha’i: A founder of the Baha'i faith born in northern Iran in 1817, Mirza Husayn-Ali became a follower of the Bab in 1844 and was imprisoned for his beliefs. In 1853 he had a vision that he was the divine messenger the Bab had promised; he publicly declared himself a messenger of God (“Baha’u’llah”) in 1863. He spent the rest of his life in exile and prison, where he wrote over 100 volumes of scripture.

Mishnah (Hebrew)

  1. Jewish: The first and foundational document of rabbinic Judaism.

  2. Jewish: The rabbinic code of law, which is considered second only to the Torah itself.

  3. Jewish: A collection of oral laws gathered by Judah ha Nasi (born about 135 CE) which contained the bulk of extra-biblical Jewish law up to the second century CE.

  4. Jewish: A collection of rabbinic discussions and rulings concerning halakhot.

missed withhold

Scientologist: A withhold which has almost been found out by another, that leaves the person who has the withhold in a state of wondering whether or not his hidden deed is known.

Missionaries of Charity
Christian (Roman Catholic): Order of nuns.

misogi (Japanese)
Shinto: Ritual cleansing before entering a shrine.

Archaic religion: Ancient Persian religious involving various mystery rites to which only men were admitted, popular among Roman soldiers and competing in the Roman Empire against Christianity in the 3rd Century.

mitzvah (plural: mitzvot) (Hebrew: "commandment")

  1. Jewish ritual: bar mitzvah (Hebrew: "son of commandment"): A "coming of age" ceremony for Jewish boys who turn 13 years old, and the often lavish celebration surrounding this temple ritual.

  2. Jewish ritual: bat mitzvah (Hebrew: "daughter of commandment"): A modern addition to Judaism in which girls who turn 13 years old participate in a "coming of age "ceremony.

Muslim: See Muhammad.

moksha (Sanskrit: "release", "liberation," "escape")
Hindu: The term for freedom, for liberation from this-worldly constraints and suffering, for release from the cycle of death and rebirth.

mondo (Japanese)
Buddhist (Zen): A dialogue exchanged between monks expressing their spirituality.

As a worldview, the belief that reality is of one kind (as against dualism and pluralism).


Worship of only one entity.

Common usage: The belief that there is only one God.

Moon, Rev. Sun Myung Unification: Born in 1920, he is the founder of the Unification Church.

Moon Cake Festival

Chinese: A traditional autumn festival during which filled pastries called moon cakes are shared with family and friends; it has both religious and secular roots dating to about 2000 BCE. See also Moon Cake Festival.

Christian: Member of an Eastern church that believes Christ has a single nature: wholly divine. View condemned by the Council of Chalcedon.

A predominantly Muslim people of mixed Berber/North African ancestry.

Moore, Robert
New Age: Founder in 1963 of the Process Church of the Final Judgement. Also known as DeGrimston.

Christian: A Muslim who has received Christian baptism.

Morituri Te Salutamus (Latin: "we who are about to die salute you")

Muslim: Use "Muslim" instead of this outdated transliteration from the Arabic meaning "one who submits" to the will of God (that is, a member of the Islamic faith).

Most Precious Blood of Jesus (=Precious Blood of Jesus)
Christian (Roman Catholic): Veneration of the Blood of Jesus and its life-giving power.

Mothering Sunday
Christian (British): Holiday when people visit their parents, especially mothers. Traditional food: simnel cakes [incomplete]

Motzi (Hebrew)
Jewish: The blessing over bread, a prayer said before eating. “Barukh atah adonai elohenu melekh ha-olam ha-Motzi lekhem min ha-aretz.” = “Blessed are you, Adonai our God, Ruler of the Universe, who brings bread forth from the Earth.”

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