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University of Toronto Mississauga
Kenneth Derry

Rituals *not all rituals are necessarily religious * rituals are just one particular type of bodily place in which religiosity is practised *religion is practised in the lives people lead, their dailyactivities, and in how they interact with other material things, such as texts, objects, and places RITUAL AND RITUALISIN * something may be a ritual, but might not necessarily be religious, and possibly vice versa too * anthropologist Maurice Bloch (1985), suggest that the study of religion would be better framed as the study of ritual. * emphasis it puts on the practice of religion, the things that people do, which the more traditional focus in the study of religion (on texts and beliefs) has tended to obscure. * significant problems with the term ‘ritual’ raised in the work of Catherine Bell * In two very influential books written in the 1990s (Ritual Theory, Ritual Practice and Ritual) she argued that the term ritual is itself misleading. * y, Bel suggests we avoid the term ‘ritual’ if we can (although she herself has been unable to do so in the titles of both of her books!) * she suggests the alternative of ‘ritualisation- scribe forms of activity (or practice * by talking of ritual’ we are suggesting that ‘it’ is a ‘thing’ with a nature of its own * we look through Bell’s lens at ritual actions, we focus less on the ‘rituals’ in themselves (as pre- given actions with a life 130 ritualof their own), and more on the way in which the people doing rituals are making certain things happen * ‘ritual’ is used to describe very varied types of behaviour, helping us try to understand things (activities) that other people are doing- * religion and ritual not something they are terms that refer to a diverse range of ways in which people behave and act in the world WHAT IS RITUAL * Most of these writers agree that rituals are a matter of doing something, performing actions, particular types of behaviour, and engaging in that behaviour in certain ways. * Ronald Grimes, in his book Beginnings in Ritual Studies, suggests that ‘ritualizing transpires as animated persons enact formative gestures in the face of receptivity during crucial times in founded places’ (Grimes 1982: 55). * For Felicia Hughes-Freeland, ‘ritual generally refers to human experience and perception in forms which are complicated by the imagination, making reality more complex and unnatural than more mundane instrumental spheres of human experience assume’ (Hughes-Freeland 1998: 2) * . Catherine Bell (Ritual Theory, Ritual Practice) argues that ‘ritualization is a matter of various culturally specific strategies for setting some activities off from others, for creating and privileging a qualitative distinction between the ‘‘sacred’’ and the ‘‘profane’’, and for ascribing such distinctions to realities thought to transcend the powers of human actors’ (Bell 1992: 74). Bell suggest that here cannot be any universal definition of the subject, since what ritual is depends to a large degree on the local context. * Roy Rappaport presents the definition of ritual as ‘the performance of more or less invariant sequences of formal acts and utterances not entirely encoded by the performers’ (Rappaport 1999: 24) * Whilst for Victor Turner, ritual is ‘formal behaviour prescribed for occasions not given over to technological routine that have reference to beliefs in mystical (or non-empirical) beings or powers’ (Turner 1982: 79). * ritual behaviour is a very important element of cultural life – it is, in fact, impossible to think of a culture where there are no rituals * most ritual behaviour are done unreflectively, out of habit, without even thinking about whether there is any meaning and purpose behind the action, it is the automatic-ness * .Ritual behaviour can range from something as simple as saying hello, or visiting a bank manager, to elaborate ritual and religious activities such as marriages, circumcisions, funerals, and even national events such as presidential inaugurations, memorials, or coronations * in the sense of ritual behaviour being unthinking and meaningless, ex greeting, saying hello, shaking hand, and asking * Worshippers taking communion in a Christian church are usually expected to be serious, and to reflect on the significance of the ritual they are participating in. * eight particular ways of looking at rituals. These are: (a) meaning, (b) symbolism; (c) communication; (d) performance; (e) society; (f) repetition; (g) transformation; and (h)power. The degree to which each of these elements is emphasised in any particular ritual may vary greatly, but they are all significant to a certain degree. * . Ronald Grimes suggests that there are sixteen different categories of ritual action (including rites of passage, marriage rites, pilgrimage, and worship amongst others * Catherine Bell breaks it down into four (rites of passage, calendrical rites, rites of exchange and communion, and rites of affliction) RITUALS AND MEANING * performance of the greeting demonstrates that we are acting correctly according to our cultural traditions *ex. example, we may hug our mother, shake hands with a friend, kiss a lover, or merely say ‘hello’ to our tutor * ritual is ‘meaningful action ex. Hindu marriage bride and groom walk around a fire not to keep warm, or to stretch their legs after a lengthy period of sitting down, Hindus interpret the action as representing the path they will be walking through life together as a new couple. John Beattie describes this as a distinction between ‘instrumental’ and ‘expressive’ actions (Beattie 1964: 202–5). → Instrumental acts are performed primarily for their practical value: to achieve some goal, to get something done. Ex. a surgeon will cut open a patient’s body and perform an operation to heal that patient. → expressive actions are performed for more than thisobvious goal, they are done to express certain ideas, or maybe to act out in symbolic form EX. (i.e. through abstract representations) ideas or wishes that cannot be achieved on an instrumental level. *the distinction between the instrumental and the expressive is in practice quite unclear *Ex. r example, if I drive my car to work in the morning, then that could be described as a purely instrumental action → expressive statement: the car may be big and flashy, showing I am wealthy enough to afford a ‘good’ car, or otherwise it may be moremodest or run-down * a wedding for ‘simple’ sake of getting married, but also to show other things : the love, commitment between the couple, the sanctity of the institution of marriage, and even the conspicuous wealth of the family whoare hosting the event. * someone who attends a service ofprayer for peace may take part literally (instrumentally) RITUALS AND SYMBOLISM * distinction between expressive and instrumental action, is founded on a symbolist approach to religion and ritual. * ritual may be seen as ‘symbolic action’, and symbols are at the heart of rituals * Victor Turner defined symbols as ‘the lowest unit of ritual’ (Turner 1967) *symbols are more then material properties ,ex. visual objects, such as the Christian cross, or the Star of David, (somet) * special sound – such as a word, or a piece of music – may also be symbolic, in that it has a significance which goes beyond the sound itself * The associations between the object and the ideas are arbitrary in the sense that they are culturally determined. Ex. A piece of wood in a shape of a cross- what meaning does it have *Christian may know why the eucharist or mass is important and the place within that ritual of bread and wine is symbolic of the ‘body of Christ’ – because they have some idea of the stories and ideas that lie behind it. * psychoanalysis work on the assumption that there aresuch universal symbols * Carl Jung’s (1978) theory of the ‘archetype’ is based on the assumption that there are some fundamental symbols with meanings and associations shared by all humans. Contrast: such as the human body, or the by-products of the body such as faeces, blood, saliva, and semen * ‘natural symbols’ (cf. Douglas 1973) appear again and again in the rituals and symbolic ideas of many people → For example, some symbols are considered to be specifically ‘religious’ – such as a Christian cross or a Jewish Star of David – → a cross can also represent the authority of the church (for example, a bishop’s cross demonstrates his power as a bishop), or the distinctiveness of Christianity vis-a`-vis other religions (e.g. the cross as representing Christianity, in distinction to the crescent representing Islam, and the star representing Judaism) or display the differences between Protestants and Catholic * no symbol can mean purely one thing will have many different meanings, all of which are culturally determined, and can only be understood in the context of the specific cultural and local context. RITUALS AND COMMUNICATION * rit
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