What are Rituals

What are Rituals?

What are Rituals? A ritual is a sequence of activities involving gestures, words, and objects, performed according to set sequences.(en.wikipedia.org/wiki/ritual).  Rituals of various kinds are featured in almost all known human societies, past or present.(www.wikipedia.org/wiki/ritual).

What are rituals?

There are real benefits to rituals.  Think about the last time you had a job interview, chances are you spent time reading up on the company, reviewing your slides, practicing your charming patter.(www.scientificamerican.com).  Recent research suggests that rituals may be more rational than they appear.  Simple rituals can be very effective.  Rituals preformed after a loss, do alleviate grief.  Rituals performed before high pressure tasks do in fact reduce anxiety and increase confidence.(www.scientificamerican.com)


Religious rituals:  a ceremony having religious meaning have been going on for centuries.  According to cultural anthropology a perspective on the human condition, by Emily Shultz and Robert Lavenda a ritual must fit into categories.  Some of these categories are,  that it must be a repetitive social practice, it must be set off from the routines of the day and it must be encoded in myth.  Ritual often has its roots in myth and religion tying itself to ancient practices between the divine and humans.  A ritual does not have to be religious in nature.  Graduation ceremonies, birthday parties, are rituals.

Religion does have certain rituals and practices that accompany and highlight religious experience, attending church, praying, and baptism are all religious rituals.(en.wikibooks.org/wiki/cultrural-anthropology/ritual_and_religion)

People have many rituals that they preform on a daily basis and may not even realize it.  Do you get out of bed on a certain side? Put one shoe and sock on before the other? Over 50 years ago Bossard and Boll(1950) conducted an extensive study of family rituals and they concluded that rituals were powerful organizers of family life.(www.apa.org/pubs/journal/releases/fam).

Historically, family rituals have been studied with the intent of understanding what families do and how their daily practices maybe shattered under conditions of family stress such as alcoholism.  Bossard and Bolls(1950) catalogue of family rituals most clearly illustrates this type of study.

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Webster defines ritual as always done in a particular situation and in the  same way each time.  All rituals are dependent upon some belief system for their complete meaning.  A great many rituals are patterned after myths.  Such rituals can be typed as imitative rituals.  This means that the ritual repeats the myth or the aspect of the myth.  Some examples include the rituals of the New Year, which often repeat the story of creation.

Rituals can also be classified as a positive or a negative.  Most positive rituals are concerned with renewing an object or an individual and the negative rituals focus on rules of aprohibition.(www.britannica.com).  There has been little consensus among scholars on an adequate theory or framework for explaining or describing ritual.  Although great progress has been made in the analysis of man as the species who speaks, the words and structure of ritual man are yet to be discovered.(www.britannica.com)

Student Article- Rhonda Sulick, What are Rituals?

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