The Encyclopaedia of Tribal Religions, in twelve volumes, is a glimpse into the enormous literature built up by anthropologists on the subject of religion, right from the earliest stage of the discipline to the present times. The father of social anthropology, Edward B. Tylor, had given the earliest definition of religion as 'a belief in supernatural beings'. Also, the first stage in human religion was described by him as Animism. From an early evolutionary approach into the origin and development of religion, to the later functional, structural and symbolic studies, this encyclopaedia has attempted to include most of the major contributions to the study of religion of tribal societies. It includes classic works such as that of Tylor, Rivers, Lowie, Malinowski, Radcliff-Brown and Evans Pritchard later writers like Turner, Firth and also those of more contemporary writers like Richard Schechner, Michael Taussig etc.
The typology of division of the volumes is the most widely used in graduate and postgraduate studies of anthropology. These are, 'Elements of Tribal Religion'. 'Health and Supernatural', 'Oracles, Omens and Dreams', 'Shamans, Magicians and Priests'. 'Religion and Economy', Rituals and Society', 'Myths and World-View', 'Witchcraft and Magic', 'Life and Death', 'Symbolism', 'Life cycle rituals' and 'Christianity and Tribal Religions'.
This pioneering work covers almost all aspects of the social and cultural approach to the study of religion has been taken into account. Attempt has been made to include various theoretical perspectives as well as ethnographies of societies all over the world.