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Christian Turner
Christian Turner

Religious Ritual REPACK


A ritual is a sequence of activities involving gestures, words, actions, or objects, performed according to a set sequence.[1][2] Rituals may be prescribed by the traditions of a community, including a religious community. Rituals are characterized, but not defined, by formalism, traditionalism, invariance, rule-governance, sacral symbolism, and performance.[3]




religious ritual


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Rituals are a feature of all known human societies.[4] They include not only the worship rites and sacraments of organized religions and cults, but also rites of passage, atonement and purification rites, oaths of allegiance, dedication ceremonies, coronations and presidential inaugurations, marriages, funerals and more. Even common actions like hand-shaking and saying "hello" may be termed as rituals.


The field of ritual studies has seen a number of conflicting definitions of the term. One given by Kyriakidis is that a ritual is an outsider's or "etic" category for a set activity (or set of actions) that, to the outsider, seems irrational, non-contiguous, or illogical. The term can be used also by the insider or "emic" performer as an acknowledgement that this activity can be seen as such by the uninitiated onlooker.[5]


The English word ritual derives from the Latin ritualis, "that which pertains to rite (ritus)". In Roman juridical and religious usage, ritus was the proven way (mos) of doing something,[6] or "correct performance, custom".[7] The original concept of ritus may be related to the Sanskrit ṛtá ("visible order)" in Vedic religion, "the lawful and regular order of the normal, and therefore proper, natural and true structure of cosmic, worldly, human and ritual events".[8] The word "ritual" is first recorded in English in 1570, and came into use in the 1600s to mean "the prescribed order of performing religious services" or more particularly a book of these prescriptions.[9]


There are hardly any limits to the kind of actions that may be incorporated into a ritual. The rites of past and present societies have typically involved special gestures and words, recitation of fixed texts, performance of special music, songs or dances, processions, manipulation of certain objects, use of special dresses, consumption of special food, drink, or drugs, and much more.[10][11][12]


Ritual uses a limited and rigidly organized set of expressions which anthropologists call a "restricted code" (in opposition to a more open "elaborated code"). Maurice Bloch argues that ritual obliges participants to use this formal oratorical style, which is limited in intonation, syntax, vocabulary, loudness, and fixity of order. In adopting this style, ritual leaders' speech becomes more style than content. Because this formal speech limits what can be said, it induces "acceptance, compliance, or at least forbearance with regard to any overt challenge". Bloch argues that this form of ritual communication makes rebellion impossible and revolution the only feasible alternative. Ritual tends to support traditional forms of social hierarchy and authority, and maintains the assumptions on which the authority is based from challenge.[14]


Rituals appeal to tradition and are generally continued to repeat historical precedent, religious rite, mores, or ceremony accurately. Traditionalism varies from formalism in that the ritual may not be formal yet still makes an appeal to the historical trend. An example is the American Thanksgiving dinner, which may not be formal, yet is ostensibly based on an event from the early Puritan settlement of America. Historians Eric Hobsbawm and Terrence Ranger have argued that many of these are invented traditions, such as the rituals of the British monarchy, which invoke "thousand year-old tradition" but whose actual form originate in the late nineteenth century, to some extent reviving earlier forms, in this case medieval, that had been discontinued in the meantime. Thus, the appeal to history is important rather than accurate historical transmission.[16]


Catherine Bell states that ritual is also invariant, implying careful choreography. This is less an appeal to traditionalism than a striving for timeless repetition. The key to invariance is bodily discipline, as in monastic prayer and meditation meant to mold dispositions and moods. This bodily discipline is frequently performed in unison, by groups.[17]


Rituals tend to be governed by rules, a feature somewhat like formalism. Rules impose norms on the chaos of behavior, either defining the outer limits of what is acceptable or choreographing each move. Individuals are held to communally approved customs that evoke a legitimate communal authority that can constrain the possible outcomes. Historically, war in most societies has been bound by highly ritualized constraints that limit the legitimate means by which war was waged.[18]


Activities appealing to supernatural beings are easily considered rituals, although the appeal may be quite indirect, expressing only a generalized belief in the existence of the sacred demanding a human response. National flags, for example, may be considered more than signs representing a country. The flag stands for larger symbols such as freedom, democracy, free enterprise or national superiority.[19] Anthropologist Sherry Ortner writes that the flag


The performance of ritual creates a theatrical-like frame around the activities, symbols and events that shape participant's experience and cognitive ordering of the world, simplifying the chaos of life and imposing a more or less coherent system of categories of meaning onto it.[22] As Barbara Myerhoff put it, "not only is seeing believing, doing is believing."[23]


Rituals may be seasonal, ... or they may be contingent, held in response to an individual or collective crisis. ... Other classes of rituals include divinatory rituals; ceremonies performed by political authorities to ensure the health and fertility of human beings, animals, and crops in their territories; initiation into priesthoods devoted to certain deities, into religious associations, or into secret societies; and those accompanying the daily offering of food and libations to deities or ancestral spirits or both.


A rite of passage is a ritual event that marks a person's transition from one status to another, including adoption, baptism, coming of age, graduation, inauguration, engagement, and marriage. Rites of passage may also include initiation into groups not tied to a formal stage of life such as a fraternity. Arnold van Gennep stated that rites of passage are marked by three stages:[24]


Turner uses the example of the Isoma ritual among the Ndembu of northwestern Zambia to illustrate. The Isoma rite of affliction is used to cure a childless woman of infertility. Infertility is the result of a "structural tension between matrilineal descent and virilocal marriage" (i.e., the tension a woman feels between her mother's family, to whom she owes allegiance, and her husband's family among whom she must live). "It is because the woman has come too closely in touch with the 'man's side' in her marriage that her dead matrikin have impaired her fertility." To correct the balance of matrilinial descent and marriage, the Isoma ritual dramatically placates the deceased spirits by requiring the woman to reside with her mother's kin.[29]


Shamanic and other ritual may effect a psychotherapeutic cure, leading anthropologists such as Jane Atkinson to theorize how. Atkinson argues that the effectiveness of a shamanic ritual for an individual may depend upon a wider audiences acknowledging the shaman's power, which may lead to the shaman placing greater emphasis on engaging the audience than in the healing of the patient.[30]


Calendrical and commemorative rites are ritual events marking particular times of year, or a fixed period since an important event. Calendrical rituals give social meaning to the passage of time, creating repetitive weekly, monthly or yearly cycles. Some rites are oriented towards a culturally defined moment of change in the climatic cycle, such as solar terms or the changing of seasons, or they may mark the inauguration of an activity such as planting, harvesting, or moving from winter to summer pasture during the agricultural cycle.[27] They may be fixed by the solar or lunar calendar; those fixed by the solar calendar fall on the same day (of the Gregorian, Solar calendar) each year (such as New Year's Day on the first of January) while those calculated by the lunar calendar fall on different dates (of the Gregorian, Solar calendar) each year (such as Chinese lunar New Year). Calendrical rites impose a cultural order on nature.[31] Mircea Eliade states that the calendrical rituals of many religious traditions recall and commemorate the basic beliefs of a community, and their yearly celebration establishes a link between past and present, as if the original events are happening over again: "Thus the gods did; thus men do."[32]


This genre of ritual encompasses forms of sacrifice and offering meant to praise, please or placate divine powers. According to early anthropologist Edward Tylor, such sacrifices are gifts given in hope of a return. Catherine Bell, however, points out that sacrifice covers a range of practices from those that are manipulative and "magical" to those of pure devotion. Hindu puja, for example, appear to have no other purpose than to please the deity.[33]


According to Marcel Mauss, sacrifice is distinguished from other forms of offering by being consecrated, and hence sanctified. As a consequence, the offering is usually destroyed in the ritual to transfer it to the deities.


Rites of feasting and fasting are those through which a community publicly expresses an adherence to basic, shared religious values, rather than to the overt presence of deities as is found in rites of affliction where feasting or fasting may also take place. It encompasses a range of performances such as communal fasting during Ramadan by Muslims; the slaughter of pigs in New Guinea; Carnival festivities; or penitential processions in Catholicism.[34] Victor Turner described this "cultural performance" of basic values a "social drama". Such dramas allow the social stresses that are inherent in a particular culture to be expressed and worked out symbolically in a ritual catharsis; as the social tensions continue to persist outside the ritual, pressure mounts for the ritual's cyclical performance.[35] In Carnival, for example, the practice of masking allows people to be what they are not, and acts as a general social leveller, erasing otherwise tense social hierarchies in a festival that emphasizes play outside the bounds of normal social limits. Yet outside carnival, social tensions of race, class and gender persist, hence requiring the repeated periodic release found in the festival.[36] 041b061a72


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