A ritual is a set of actions, performed mainly for their symbolic value. It may be prescribed by the traditions of a community, including a religious community. The term usually refers to actions which are stylized, excluding actions which are arbitrarily chosen by the performers.
The field of ritual studies has seen a number of conflicting definitions of the term. One given by Kyriakidis (2007) is that a ritual is an outsider's or "etic" category for a set activity (or set of actions) which 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.
A ritual may be performed on specific occasions, or at the discretion of individuals or communities. It may be performed by a single individual, by a group, or by the entire community; in arbitrary places, or in places especially reserved for it; either in public, in private, or before specific people. A ritual may be restricted to a certain subset of the community, and may enable or underscore the passage between religious or social states.
The purposes of rituals are varied; with religious obligations or ideals, satisfaction of spiritual or emotional needs of the practitioners, strengthening of social bonds, social and moral education, demonstration of respect or submission, stating one's affiliation, obtaining social acceptance or approval for some event—or, sometimes, just for the pleasure of the ritual itself.
Rituals of various kinds are a feature of almost all known human societies, past or present. They include not only the various worship rites and sacraments of organized religions and cults, but also the rites of passage of certain societies, atonement and purification rites, oaths of allegiance, dedication ceremonies, coronations and presidential inaugurations, marriages and funerals, school "rush" traditions and graduations, club meetings, sports events, Halloween parties, veterans parades, Christmas shopping and more. Many activities that are ostensibly performed for concrete purposes, such as jury trials, execution of criminals, and scientific symposia, are loaded with purely symbolic actions prescribed by regulations or tradition, and thus partly ritualistic in nature. Even common actions like hand-shaking and saying hello may be termed rituals.
In psychology, the term ritual is sometimes used in a technical sense for a repetitive behavior systematically used by a person to neutralize or prevent anxiety; it is a symptom of obsessive–compulsive disorder.
Other articles related to "ritual":
... Of particular interest to anthropologists has been the role of ritual in structuring life crises, human development, religious enactment and ... ethnographers, who have contributed to ritual theory are Victor Turner, Ronald Grimes, Mary Douglas, and the biogenetic structuralists ... through Turner and contemporary theorists like Michael Silverstein (2004) treat ritual as social action aimed at particular transformations often conceived in cosmic terms ...
... Men beg him for sexual prowess and females worship him to be gifted with a male child ... On the Day of Holi when all men are singing Holi songs known as Phag which are songs describing their sexual accomplishments the married women pay a visit to Eloji in groups of friends, bow to him, touch his elongated phallus with awe and cut jokes, they laugh and tease each other ...
... In Tirumala, the Pavitrotsavam ritual is conducted on Sravana shuddha dashami day ... This ritual signifies the beginning of festival in the temple ... This is followed by recital of vedas in a ritual called Mritsangrahana ...
... traditional Chinese 禮 simplified Chinese 礼 pinyin lǐ) ritual system encoded an understanding of manners as an expression of the social hierarchy ... of the Western Zhou period led the ritual to drift towards moralization and formalization in regard to The five orders of Chinese nobility ... Ancestral temples (size, legitimate number of pavilions) Ceremonial regulations (number of ritual vessels, musical instruments, people in the dancing troupe) ...
... The Ritual of Restoration has been seen performed on three separate occasions once by a Kalderash Gypsy elder, and twice by the Witch Willow Rosenberg ... The ritual is spoken slightly differently each time, presumably because the translation made by Jenny Calendar is not an exact replica of the original ...
Famous quotes containing the word ritual:
“The greatest honor that can be paid to the work of art, on its pedestal of ritual display, is to describe it with sensory completeness. We need a science of description.... Criticism is ceremonial revivification.”
—Camille Paglia (b. 1947)
“We must get back into relation, vivid and nourishing relation to the cosmos and the universe. The way is through daily ritual, and is an affair of the individual and the household, a ritual of dawn and noon and sunset, the ritual of the kindling fire and pouring water, the ritual of the first breath, and the last.”
—D.H. (David Herbert)
“A few years later, I would have answered, I never repeat anything. That is the ritual phrase of society people, by which the gossip is reassured every time.”
—Marcel Proust (18711922)