Ritual: Perspectives and Dimensions--Revised Edition

Ritual: Perspectives and Dimensions--Revised Edition

Catherine Bell

Language: English

Pages: 368

ISBN: 0199735107

Format: PDF / Kindle (mobi) / ePub


From handshakes and toasts to chant and genuflection, ritual pervades our social interactions and religious practices. Still, few of us could identify all of our daily and festal ritual behaviors, much less explain them to an outsider. Similarly, because of the variety of activities that qualify as ritual and their many contradictory yet, in many ways, equally legitimate interpretations, ritual seems to elude any systematic historical and comparative scrutiny. In this book, Catherine Bell offers a practical introduction to ritual practice and its study; she surveys the most influential theories of religion and ritual, the major categories of ritual activity, and the key debates that have shaped our understanding of ritualism. Bell refuses to nail down ritual with any one definition or understanding. Instead, her purpose is to reveal how definitions emerge and evolve and to help us become more familiar with the interplay of tradition, exigency, and self- expression that goes into constructing this complex social medium.

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come to judge the living and the dead?” And when he says: “I believe,” let him baptise him the second time. And again let him say: “Dost thou believe in the Holy Spirit in the Holy Church, and the resurrection of the flesh?” And he who is being baptised shall say: “I believe.” And so let him baptise him the third time. And afterwards when he comes up from the water he shall be anointed by the presbyter with the Oil of Thanksgiving, saying: “I anoint thee with holy oil in the Name of Jesus

claims to think like a Zuñi may not have been perfectly echoed by the Zuñi themselves. Indeed, they appear to have been very aware of significant peculiarities about Cushing, as shown in the song they composed about him, related by Sam Gill: Once they made a White man into a Priest of the Bow he was out there with the other Bow priests he had black stripes on his body the others said their prayers from their hearts but he read his from a piece of paper.24 Aside from the contrast between

Studies of Theatre and Ritual (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 1990), pp. 150–56. Chapter 5 1. For analogous discussions, see Ronald Grimes, Ritual Criticism, pp. 13–14; and Onno van der Hart, Rituals in Psychotherapy: Transition and Continuity (New York: Irvington Publishers, 1978), pp. 3–16. 2. With a different perspective, Grimes has also formulated “six modes of ritual sensibility: ritualization, decorum, ceremony, liturgy, magic and celebration” (Beginnings in Ritual

Schwartzman, Play and Culture, pp. 49–50, 54–55, 57, 68. 65. Ehud Ya’ari and Ina Friedman, “Curses in Verses,” Atlantic Monthly (February 1991): 22–26. 66. Murray Edelman, Politics as Symbolic Action: Mass Arousal and Quiescence (Chicago: Markham Publishing, 1971). 67. For an inventory of the ritual patterns in American public life, see John F. Wilson, Public Religion in American Culture (Philadelphia: Temple University Press, 1979), pp. 74–88. 68. See the following studies: Gershom Scholem,

out that it is the frame placed on a ceremonial blow that makes it clear whether one is initiating war or making peace.56 Many studies have explored the types of frames that ritual performances invoke and how they do so. There is some consensus that ritual performances are signaled, at least in part, by a way of speaking that contrasts everyday talk with more ceremonial styles of speech. This ceremonial style is “keyed,” to use Goffman’s word, by various means of metacommunication, such as the

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