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Ritual Studies

Ritual Dynamic Structure by Roy Gane (Gorgias Dissertations, 14: Gorgias Press ) Scientific study of rituals requires an understanding of their natural. As perceived by H. Hubert and M. Mauss (Essai sur la nature et la fontion du sacrifice, 1898), a basic aspect of the nature of sacrificial ritual is its dynamic structure. The present work takes up the neglected quest for a theory of ritual and methodology of analysis that recognize and trace the contours of ritual dynamic structure.

The resulting fresh approach provides a controlled framework for interpreting rituals belonging to various cultures and f9r identifying bases of comparison between them. Two important innovations are:

  1. Application of General Systems Theory concepts to study of human rituals as hierarchically, structured human activity systems.
  2. Application of F. Staal's "ritual syntax" (developed in the context of Vedic studies) to ancient Near Eastern rituals.

The first part of Ritual Dynamic Structure builds a theory and definition of ritual and a corresponding methodology for analyzing specific rituals in terms of their activities and the meanings attached to those activities. The second part illustrates this methodology and its usefulness for comparative studies by applying it to ceremonies belonging to three ancient Near. Eastern festival days of cult purification: the Israelite Day of Atonement, the fifth day of the Babylonian New Year Festival of Spring, and the fourth day of the Hittite Ninth Year Festival of Telipinu.

Roy E. Gane is Professor of Hebrew Bible and Ancient Near Eastern Languages and Director of the Ph.D./Th.D. and M.Th. programs in the Seventh-day Adventist Theological- Seminary at Andrews University (Berrien Springs, MI), He studied :Hebrew and other ancient Near Eastern languages at the University of California, Berkeley (M.A. 1983, Ph.D. 1992 under Jacob Milgrom). Gene taught at Pacific Union College (1992-1994) before moving to Andrews University: He authored Cult and Character: Purification Offerings, Day of Atonement, and Theodicy (Eisenbrauns) and The NIV Application Commentary: Leviticus-Numbers (Zondervan). Gane's interest in the ancient Near East is shared by his wife, Constance Clark Gane, a Mesopotamian archaeologist. Together they studied at the Hebrew University of Jerusalem and participated in archaeological excavations in Iraq (Nineveh) and Jordan (Tall Jalul).

The first part of this work (chaps. 1.-3.) develops a theory of ritual and a methodology for applying this theory to specific rituals. In agreement with F. Staal, rituals are hierarchically organized activity systems, of which the components/subsystems are fixed with regard to their inclusion, nature, and relative order. Therefore, like other human activity systems as described by B. Wilson, rituals can be analyzed in terms of physical causes and effects, that is, from an "intrinsic activity" perspective.

That which differentiates a ritual from nonritual activity systems and establishes its unity is the fact that it is interpreted by a ritual tradition as achieving its goal through a particular kind of "cognitive task": a transformation process in which interaction with an entity or group of entities ordinarily inaccessible to the material domain takes place. A "ritual complex" is a unit in which two or more such processes are carried out. Once the "structure" of an individual ritual or ritual complex, consisting of activity components and logical relationships between them, has been determined through "intrinsic activity" and "cognitive task" systems analyses, the syntactic framework of the structure can be abstracted and studied in the manner demonstrated by Staal in the context of Vedic ritual.

In the second part of this work (chaps. 4.-7.), the theory and methodology developed in the first part are applied to rituals belonging to selected ancient Near Eastern festival days, namely, the Israelite Day of Atonement, the fifth day of the Babylonian New Year Festival of Spring, and the fourth day of the Hittite Ninth Year Festival of Telipinu in Hanhana and Kasha. These rituals can be categorized according to the dynamics of the transformations that carry out their goals. For example:

  1. An ownership transfer ritual transfers ownership of a material object unit to an ordinarily inaccessible party.
  2. An offering ritual transfers a material object unit to an ordinarily inaccessible party for his/her utilization.
  3. A removal ritual transfers an inaccessible entity from a unit consisting of one or more persons, objects or structures.
  4. A communication ritual transfers information to an ordinarily inaccessible party.

By investigating first the individual rituals and then the ritual complexes that make up the three selected festival days, it has been possible to assess the overall purpose and structure of each ritual day. All three include purification rituals that are special to those days, festival rituals that occur on other festival days as well, and two blocks of regular/daily ritual activities that are separated from each other by the special purification rituals.

Through examination of syntactic structures abstracted from ritual units belonging to the selected festival days, it has been shown that several syntactic relations identified by Staal in the context of Vedic ritual (embedding, insertion, omission, modification of a smaller unit when it is inserted into a larger unit, simultaneity, and interruption) and two relations pointed out by R. Payne in Japanese Tantric Buddhist ritual (repetitive embedding and interweaving) are also found in ancient Near Eastern ritual.

If rituals are to be studied in a scientific manner, the nature of ritual must be understood. As perceived by H. Hubert and M. Mauss (Essai stir la nature et la fonction du sacrifice, 1898; Engl. transl. 1964), an essential aspect of sacrifice is its dynamic structure, that is, structure that is characterized by change through time (Hubert and Mauss 1964: 45, 48). The potential importance of this insight for ritual studies cannot be overestimated. Although Hubert and Mauss fell short of their central goal—to develop a generally applicable theory of sacrifice based upon a common dynamic (see Appendix I)—they pointed out some key aspects of ritual dynamic structure:

  1. A sacrifice carries out a dynamic, purposeful process involving interaction with a transcendent sphere (p. 97).
  2. The order of activities in a sacrifice is fixed: "From the moment that it has begun, it must continue to the end without interruption and in the ritual order" (Hubert and Mauss, p. 28).
  3. Sacrifices can be embedded in "more complex formulas" (Hubert and Mauss, pp. 16-17).

In general, Hubert and Mauss contributed awareness that ritual dynamic structure exists and the idea that a phenomenon such as ritual should be defined in terms of a common dynamic. Above all, their legacy is to leave a tantalizing challenge: Is there such a common dynamic?

In more recent years, Frits Staal of the University of California, Berkeley has. pursued the basic insights of Hubert and Mauss by pioneering an approach to ritual that he terms "ritual syntax." In his recent book, Rules Without Meaning: Ritual, Mantras, and the Human Sciences (1989), which incorporates and expands upon much of his earlier work in the field of Vedic ritual,' Staal argues the following:

  1. Ritual consists of rule-governed activity (Staal 1989: 260, 452). That activities are rule-governed means that they exhibit regularities for which rules may be postulated to account for them (ibid.: 58).
  2. The concern of ritualists is with performing activities in a certain manner according to rules rather than with achieving results in any possible manner. Staal comments on the Vedic agnipranayana ("transporting the fire") ritual:
    What is essential in the ceremony is the precise and faultless execution, in accordance with rules, of numerous rites and recitations. The result is important, but it has only ritual use and can only be reached in the ritually prescribed manner (ibid.: 132).
  3. A ritual activity has no inherent meaning (ibid.: 131), as indicated by the fact that a given ritual activity can carry various functions (ibid.: 127-9, 134, 330). If ritual has no intrinsic meaning, it is unlike language, of which semantics is an integral component (ibid.: 140). Meanings have been attached to ritual activities, primarily by religious systems, but these meanings and, a fortiori, the social functions of rituals, are secondary and extrinsic to ritual (ibid.: 137, 140).

On the basis of his theory of ritual, Staal's provisional definition of "ritual" is as follows: "Ritual may be defined, in approximate terms, as a system of acts and sounds, related to each other in accordance with rules without reference to meaning" (ibid.: 433).

If ritual is "rule-governed," but lacks semantic rules, what kind of rules govern it? The answer, according to Staal, is: syntactic rules (ibid.: 101ff). Thus, whereas Hubert and Mauss sought to abstract from sacrifices a generally applicable scheme of sacralization-desacralization (see Appendix I), Staal abstracts "syntactic structures" from rituals, that is, systems of nonsemantic logical  Staal's investigation of ritual has included personal observations of surviving forms, most significantly a performance in 1975 of the Vedic Agnicayana ritual by Nambudiri brahmins in South India. This performance is described by Staal in AGNI. The Vedic Ritual of the Fire Altar (1983). relationships between hierarchically ordered ritual components, which can be expressed with symbols and tree diagrams. For further discussion of ritual syntax methodology and syntactic relations between ritual units that have been exposed by Staal and R. Payne ("Feeding the Gods: The Shingon Fire Ritual," 1985), see chapter 3.

Staal has demonstrated that syntactic structure is a basic component of ritual. Therefore, in the present work, each of my ritual analyses will include investigation from a "ritual syntax perspective."

Staal has greatly expanded our understanding of ritual structure. As he recognizes, his theory of ritual represents a provisional basis for further progress and must be tested, expanded, and applied systematically to various ritual traditions (ibid.: 150, 189, 434, 447, 449).

In the next few pages, I will introduce the main areas of innovation to be developed in the present work. These fall under the rubrics of ritual theory, methodology, and application of the theory and methodology to ritual traditions not investigated by Staal, that is, those of the ancient Israelites, Babylonians, and Hittites.


In the area of ritual theory, I explore the relationship between ritual activity and meaning. My logical starting point is the question: If a ritual is a system, what unites it and determines its boundaries? Consider the following activities, carried out on the Esagila temple in Babylon by an exorcist during the fifth day of the Babylonian New Year Festival of Spring:
...he sprinkles the temple with water from a well on the Tigris and a well on the Euphrates. He makes the copper bell(?) sound forth shrilly in the temple. He makes a censer and a torch pass through the interior of the temple (lines 341-3; see chap. 5.).

These activities can be viewed objectively, without reference to meaning, in terms of physical causes and effects only, that is, as "pure activity" (Staal 1989: 131) or what I call "intrinsic activity." An analysis from an "intrinsic activity perspective" can deal with important aspects of structure, such as the sequence of activities:

  1. sprinkle water on Esagila temple
  2. make sound with copper bell(?) in Esagila temple
  3. pass censer and torch through middle of Esagila temple

However, there are basic aspects of structure for which an intrinsic activity analysis does not suffice: unity and boundaries. Are there three separate rituals here, or is there one, or is this group of activities part of a larger ritual? Without knowing what constitutes a single, complete ritual, it is impossible to abstract a syntactic structure with unity and boundaries that are not arbitrary.

If, of course, we implicitly accept ritual unit boundaries established by the relevant ritual tradition (see ibid.: 79, 85, 87-8, 101, etc.—e.g., Isti and Soma sequences, Agnistoma, Paiaubandha and Darsapurnamasa rituals), we can pursue a structural analysis from that point without further reference to meaning. However, such boundaries are likely to be based upon attached meaning rather than activity criteria alone. If so, without an a priori dependence upon attached meaning, syntactic analysis cannot proceed and it should be acknowledged that attached meaning is not excluded from the overall definition and analysis of ritual.

Even if it could be established that the three Babylonian activities cited above constitute a single, complete activity system, how do we know that this is a ritual activity system? In what does its "ritualness" reside? Staal has suggested the criterion of concern for rules rather than with results (ibid.: 132). However, knowing that sprinkling water, sounding a bell, and walking around with a censer and torch are rule-governed does not necessarily mean that they are ritual activities. They could function in the context of another kind of rule-governed activity, such as a drama or a game.

Up to this point, in order to demonstrate an intrinsic activity perspective, without reference to interpretations attached to actions, I have intentionally disregarded the clear indication of the Babylonian text with regard to the purpose of the above activities: "...he (the exorcist) purifies the temple" (line 340). The three activities, by themselves, contribute together to the purification of the temple. Thus, they constitute a single ritual. The idea that these activities purify the temple goes beyond the boundaries of cause and effect that can be analyzed without reference to meaning. Sprinkling a small amount of water from the Tigris and Euphrates rivers, etc., are inadequate or ineffective for purifying a temple from ordinary physical pollution, but they are interpreted as removing another kind of impurity, that is, they are believed to do something that goes beyond physical cause and effect. In other words, the activities carry out a task on the cognitive level. There is no question that the interpretation, which is a kind of "meaning," is not intrinsic to the activity, but rather is attached to it. However, without the interpretation, the activities would not be unified and bounded as a single, complete ritual. Therefore, it appears that a "cognitive task" component should not only be acknowledged as an a priori, but must necessarily be incorporated into the theory and analysis of ritual as a key criterion for defining ritual unity and boundaries.

Thus far, a ritual can be defined as a rule-governed activity system that carries out a "cognitive task." However, this definition does not adequately deal with the question of "ritualness" mentioned above because it does not separate rituals from some other phenomena, for example, certain kinds of legal transactions:
Now this was the custom in former times in Israel concerning redeeming and exchanging: to confirm a transaction, the one drew off his sandal and gave it to the other, and this was the manner of attesting in Israel. So when the next of kin said to Boaz, "Buy it for yourself," he drew off his sandal. Then Boaz said to the elders and all the people, "You are witnesses this day that I have bought from the hand of Naomi all that belonged to Elimelech and all that belonged to Chilion and to Mahlon. Also Ruth the Moabitess, the widow of Mahlon, I have bought to be my wife, to perpetuate the name of the dead in his inheritance, that the name of the dead may not be cut off from among his brethren and from the gate of his native place; you are witnesses this day" (Ruth 4:7-10; RSV).

According to rules of social convention, the act of removing one's sandal and giving it to another was interpreted in this context as accomplishing a "cognitive task": the transfer of a legal right and/or obligation carrying practical consequences. Is this ritual? If so, every conventional transaction activity in which a token, including modern paper money, is used would have to be regarded as ritual. Of course, this could be called "legal ritual" to distinguish it from "religious ritual," such as the Babylonian example cited earlier, which is governed by rules established by religious authority.

Apart from differences in authority, there is a fundamental distinction between the Babylonian and Israelite examples. In the Israelite transaction, a material symbol is used in a transfer of rights and obligations regarding property and a wife, which belong to the material domain. While the rights and obligations themselves are intangible relationships, because these relationships are between material entities, that is, persons and/or things, the results of transfer are manifest in the tangible world. For example, Ruth becomes the wife of Boaz and bears him a son (Ruth 4:13). The purification of the Esagila temple in Babylon, on the other hand, is concerned with removal of ritual impurity, which is not only intangible; it is a nonmaterial entity rather than a nonmaterial relationship between material entities. As a nonmaterial entity, ritual impurity is inaccessible to interaction with the material world and to empirical investigation. However, ritual activity functions on the "cognitive task level" to bridge the gap between the material domain, in which the activity is performed, and the nonmaterial domain, in which the ritual impurity resides, in order to affect the impurity.

In order to interact with an inaccessible entity, special activity is needed, which is governed by special rules and differs from activity dealing with physical entities. Even though ritual activities are performed correctly according to the relevant ritual rules, whether or not they successfully accomplish their desired goal cannot be demonstrated in the material domain, but must be believed, based upon acceptance of a ritual conceptual system. Therefore, to a nonbeliever, ritual can appear impractical, absurd, and wasteful.

Removal of ritual impurity is only one kind of "cognitive task" interaction with an inaccessible entity. Examples of other kinds are sacrifice, that is, an offering transaction between a human (i.e., material) party and a transcendent party who is ordinarily inaccessible to the material domain, and formulaic prayer, that is, a rule-governed communication directed by a human being to an ordinarily inaccessible party. Dynamics of these and other kinds of ritual interactions will be analyzed in the present work. Because "cognitive task" interaction with an inaccessible entity is the basic dynamic common to essential categories of activity phenomena that are generally regarded as "ritual," I propose that the presence of this dynamic indicates the "ritualness" of a rule-governed activity system. Therefore, a definition of ritual should include reference to this dynamic. Other kinds of activities, for example, legal transactions in which tokens are used, should be called something other than "ritual."

The "cognitive task" function of a ritual must be distinguished from its social function. For example, whereas the cognitive task function of the Babylonian ritual cited above is the removal of ritual impurity from the temple in preparation for later ritual events of the New Year Festival (see chap. 5.), the social function of the ritual would likely have to do with its being regarded by the Babylonians as contributing to their well-being by removing evil that is disturbing to their gods and consequently threatens the continued residence of the gods with the Babylonians (see Milgrom 1991: 256, 258-9). Since the present work is confined to dynamic structure within rituals, I will make no attempt to analyze rituals in terms of their respective social functions.3


In this work, I adapt to ritual activity analysis an "applied general systems theory" methodology developed by Brian Wilson of the Department of Systems at the University of Lancaster for investigating "human activity systems," especially those relevant to business management. Until now, to my knowledge, "systems theory" has not been applied to analysis of ritual activity structure.'

Some key elements of Wilson's methodology, outlined in his book titled Systems: Concepts, Methodologies, and Applications (1984), are as follows:

  1. A conceptual model is an important analytical tool. A model cannot fully represent a situation, but rather represents an aspect of, or something believed to be relevant to, a situation (B. Wilson 1984: 8).
  2. A model of a human activity system represents a transformation process (ibid.: 25).
  3. Since a system of activities can be described as carrying out more than one transformation process, depending upon the point of view from which it is perceived, Wilson incorporates the "point of view" variable into his analysis through a "root definition" that does the following:
    ...attempts to capture the essence of the system being described. A root definition is hence more than a mere statement of the objectives of the system. It incorporates the point of view that makes the activities and performance of the system meaningful...What the analyst is doing, in this kind of analysis, is choosing to view the situation in particular ways and, through the subsequent process of modelling each system, exploring the implications of the views taken (ibid.: 3031).
  4. In models of activity systems, activity components should be expressed as verbs (ibid.: 24).
  5. The goal/ raison d'itre of a human activity system is to achieve through activities the particular transformation that has been defined" (ibid.: 16, 26).
  6. Wilson makes a distinction between two kinds of analysis, which he terms "primary task analysis" and "issue-based analysis." In a "primary task analysis," "...one is choosing to model a version of the situation that, it can be argued, is close to agreed perceptions of reality" (ibid.: 86). For example:

...irrespective of the particular view held of the nature of a prison, there would be basic agreement that a prison could be taken to be 'a system for the receipt, storage, and despatch of prisoners' (ibid.: 87).

By contrast, an "issue-based" analysis would pursue the implications of various perceptions of a prison as a punishment system, a society protection system, an education system, etc. (ibid.: 85-86).

Because Wilson's methodology deals with basic aspects of activity dynamics and because of its adaptability to different kinds of activities and points of view with respect to them, it is well suited to analysis of ritual dynamic structure. In my application of this approach, a given ritual is first analyzed from an "intrinsic activity perspective," which corresponds to what Wilson would call a "primary task" point of view. Next, the ritual is approached from a "cognitive task perspective." This is "issue-based analysis" concerned with implications of the interpretive point of view indicated by the ritual text. Examination from each of these perspectives necessarily includes formulation of a root definition, an overall transformation model, and a hierarchical model of the activities that carry out the overall transformation. From the intrinsic activity and cognitive task hierarchical models, a syntactic model can be abstracted.

As discussed above, the fact that a ritual is a single, complete system on the intrinsic activity level depends upon the unity provided by the cognitive task interpretation. This is not contradicted by the fact that Wilson can define unity and boundaries of systems on the "primary task" level. The systems studied by Wilson are nonritual, achieving their unifying goals through ordinary patterns of cause and effect. A ritual, on the other hand, is not restricted to ordinary cause and effect. Therefore, its goal cannot be safely reconstructed from knowledge of its uninterpreted activities alone. The fact that cognitive task interpretations assigned to ritual activities by religious traditions are world-view dependent means that a subjective element is built into rituals.

The purpose of the present work is to learn about rituals through analysis of their dynamic structure. Analysis is an intellectual pursuit that aids the modern learning process. It is not an end in itself, nor does it represent the way in which an ancient ritual participant would view the activities.


As material for analysis, I have chosen the rituals of three festival days belonging to three discrete ancient Near Eastern ritual traditions: the Israelite Day of Atonement, the fifth day of the Babylonian New Year Festival of Spring, and the fourth day of the Hittite Ninth Year Telipinu Festival in Hanhana and Kasha, in descending order of structural complexity. Reasons for this selection are as follows:

  1. F. Staal's syntactic approach has not previously been applied to ancient Near Eastern rituals. It will be possible to determine whether or not syntactic features that he and R. Payne have pointed out in contexts of Vedic Indian and Buddhist Japanese rituals are found in the ancient Near East.
  2. Investigating rituals belonging to more than one tradition tests a theory of common ritual dynamics in a way that could not be accomplished within the bounds of a single tradition.
  3. Since the three festival days are rich in the variety and complexity of their ritual structures, they are fertile ground for the study of ritual dynamic structure.
  4. Because the three festival days present challenging interpretive problems, it is possible to demonstrate the contribution of my approach to interpretive problem-solving.
  5. The festival days are similar in theme: each involves special purification of sacred precincts and/or sancta, along with maintenance of regular offerings. Therefore, there is an opportunity to demonstrate the contribution of my approach to comparative study.

In the present work, I am concerned with synchronic analysis of rituals as their activities and interpretations of those activities are presented in Hebrew, Akkadian, and Hittite texts. I do not deal with historical questions such as whether or not the rituals were actually performed as prescribed or described, how they may have been performed at an earlier time, or what earlier cognitive task interpretations may have been assigned to those activities. Since the selected rituals are accessible only through ancient texts, which present problems such as abbreviated prescriptions or descriptions, terminological difficulties, and lacunae, reconstruction of rituals through exegesis (primarily close reading) necessarily occupies considerable space. The goal of this exegesis, which is preliminary to analysis of ritual dynamic structure, is to establish as efficiently as possible a viable outline of activities, not to deal with all possibilities suggested by interpreters.

The chapters of this work divide themselves into two parts. The first, comprised of chapters 1.-3., develops ritual theory and methodology. In this part, the Israelite burnt offering of herd and flock animals (Lev 1:3-9, 10-13) serves as the primary example. The second part, consisting of chapters 4.-7., applies the theory and methodology developed in the first part to the Israelite Day of Atonement, the fifth day of the Babylonian New Year Festival of Spring, and the fourth day of the Hittite Ninth Year Telipinu Festival in Hanhana and Kasha. The conclusion summarizes the contribution of the present research to the study of ritual dynamic structure. Appendix I critiques the approach of H. Hubert and M. Mauss to ritual dynamic structure. Appendix II provides my English translation of the entire Hittite Ninth Year Telipinu Festival, hitherto available only in German.

When Rituals Go Wrong: Mistakes, Failure, and the Dynamics of Ritual by Ute Hüsken (Numen Book: Brill Academic Publishers) The present volume is dedicated entirely to the investigation of the implications and effects of breaking ritual rules, of failed performances and of the extinction of ritual systems.

While rituals are often seen as infallible mechanisms which 'work' irrespective of the individual motivations of the performers, it is clearly visible here that rituals can fail, and that improper performances are a cause for concern. These essays break new ground in their respective fields, and the comparative analysis of rituals that go wrong introduces new perspectives to ritual studies. As the first book-length study on ritual mistakes and failure, this volume begins to fill a significant gap in the existing literature. Contributors include: Claus Ambos, Christiane Brosius, Johanna Buss, Burckhard Dücker, Christoph Emmrich, Brigitta Hauser-Schãublin, Maren Hoffmeister, Ute HUsken, Brigitte Merz, Axel Michaels, Karin Polit, Michael Rudolph, Edward L. Schieffelin, Jan A.M. Snoek, Eftychia Stavrianopoulou, and Jan Weinhold.

It seems that in ritual something always can go wrong, but this does not mean that a slip necessarily matters. The six contributions to the first section give evidence of a wide range of possible deviations, errors, flaws, slips and mistakes, but also of the diversity of perspectives and modes of evaluation. The articles clearly document that rituals are always evaluated, assessed and interpreted, although the investigated traditions and the perspectives of the five authors could hardly be more different.

Claus Ambos in "Types of Ritual Failure and Mistakes in Ritual in Cuneiform Sources" demonstrates how much textual material cuneiform studies offers for the study of a ritual's risks and the attempts of the tradition to cope with it: ritual texts, oracular queries, wisdom literature, lamentations, and hundreds of letters from Assyrian and Babylonian scholars and ritual experts to the Assyrian Kings Esarhaddon (680­669 BCE) and Assurbanipal (668-627 BCE). Ambos presents several examples of ritual performances on the verge of failure. He analyses the textual representations of the risks of ritual and some instances of failed rituals in a long-gone civilization and studies the texts' rhetorics from the perspective of a textual scholar. Taking into account that texts sometimes tell us much about actual performances, but sometimes tell us little, he also presents cases in which he is confronted with two conflicting views of one and the same incident, namely two differing textual assessments of one single ritual. Moreover, Ambos vividly dem­onstrates that we always have to ask who articulates the reasons and consequences of ritual failure.

Jan Weinhold opens up individual perspectives of the participants on the issue in his "Failure and Mistakes in Rituals of the European Santo Daime Church: Experiences and Subjective Theories of the Participants". Weinhold's article is determined by participant observa­tion, enriched by the analysis of interviews conducted with members of the Santo Daime church. He therefore mainly concentrates on the performance aspects of the rituals and on their subjective evalua­tions. The observed flexibility of ritual performance and its norms in emic views is often explained in that Daime itself is postulated as a

superhuman agent, responsible for any practice, including deviations from the ritual norms. Moreover, it becomes clear that the 'flow' of a ritual performance can be perceived as more important than avoiding deviations.

Burckhard Dücker  in his contribution "Failure Impossible? Handling of Rules, Mistakes and Failure in Public Rituals of Modern Western Societies" mainly concentrates on the participant institutions' evalu­ation of deviations. He gives a short historical survey of coronation ceremonies of poets in early modern times and other cultural honours from the mid-18th century where making ritual mistakes was possible but did not result in any spectacular actions: in many cases these deviations were incorporated as 'subversive elements' into the ritual systems. Dücker moreover highlights the reflexivity of tradition and ritual which he sees as essential for the relation between ritual criti­cism (as subversive element) and ritual performance. He argues that failure is an integral part of order. In and beyond the ritual, a mistake refers to systemic relations: on the one hand it refers to the synchronic and diachronic historical context of other rituals, on the other, to its contemporary socio-cultural context, where the deviation initiates a discourse about rules. "Deviation is the most latent element of the existing order, offering a new interpretation of the existing normality as and when it is activated" (Dücker, p. 79).

Jan A.M. Snoek in his article "Dealing with Deviations in the Per­formance of Masonic Rituals" explicitly takes on an extraordinary perspective: being a mason himself, he consciously chose a scholarly position, rather than an insider one. However, being a mason, he is in the position to report about the perspectives on ritual failures, mistakes or errors from within the tradition. Since masonic Grand Lodges are autonomous and independent, and since roughly speaking each country has its own Grand Lodge, some of which are several hundred years old, each developed in the course of time its own style, also in respect to dealing with deviations from the ritual norms. The examples given by Snoek give the reader a deep insight into the textual as well as the performance aspects of masonic Rituals.

Axel Michaels in his article "Perfection and Mishaps in Vedic Rituals" refers to several ways in which the rituals can be spoilt or endangered. The list of possible mistakes is long: unexpected incidents or obstacles, misbehaviour of the participants, pollution of the material, and so on. However, apart from the 'standard' methods employed to prevent amistake's evil consequences (substitution, alteration, omission, fusion, reduction, repetition and invention), he argues, in Vedic ritual systems there is a very fundamental way of dealing with the risks emerging from procedural errors or slips, namely the internalisation of the entire ritual process. Michaels claims that a certain notion of internalisation and autonomy of the ritual is necessary for any kind of ritual thinking: rituals are dynamic events in their own right that cannot really fail on the doctrinal level. Internalisation here is the expression of the rituals' intrinsic "capacity of self-healing", he says (p. 131).

The tendency of some ritual systems to 'incorporate' deviations in ritual by attributing them to superhuman agency and thus considering them as part of the ritual process can also be interpreted as a means to cope with the riskiness of rituals. Christoph Emmrich in his con­tribution "All the King's Horses and All the King's Men': the 2004 Red Matsyendranatha Incident in Lalitpur" describes and analyses how the ceremonial chariot carrying the god 'Red Matsyendranatha' on the sixth day of its procession through Lalitpur (Nepal) fell on its side. The procession was interrupted for one entire month due to nec­essary rituals of atonement and exculpation as well as the complete rebuilding of the vehicle. Now, as in earlier cases when the god 'fell', the incident is interpreted by many as the most recent one in a long line marking the country's troubled fate. Emmrich analyses how the damage was assessed in 'popular belief' and by the ritual specialists, which measures were recommended and how and for what purpose they were applied. Both interpretations      offence against the godhead or portentous omen—make Emmrich raise the question whether in this context there is any appropriate place for or a notion such as 'mistake' or `failure'. He suggests rather that the event can be interpreted as pre-enacted and thus calculated catastrophe inherent in this particular ritual, which enables the performance of breakdown and recovery, mirroring on a small scale the fate of the world.

These six contributions reveal that deviations are constitutive features of ritual, and that dealing with such deviations is therefore an integral part of most ritual traditions: these methods can be interpreted as `incorporation of risks', serving as means to avert the dangers arising from improper ritual performances.

Most traditions are not only aware of the inherent riskiness of ritual performances but also provide for strategies to avoid negative consequences arising from errors or mis­takes in ritual. On the one hand, it seems that most traditions develop such strategies, but on the other no two of these strategies are alike: here, again, the context determines the concrete form of the measures. Although traces of such strategies are discernible in many traditions dealt with in the contributions to this volume,' the two papers presented here especially concentrate on such preventive measures and modes to ensure a ritual's 'quality'.

In Johanna Bus's case study, as in many other textual traditions, the possibility of mistakes and consequently 'doctrinal (i.e. postulated) failure' is excluded through reparation or atonement rituals, which are part and parcel of the rituals proper. As 'meta rites' (rituals that work on other rituals), they aim at correcting, undoing, or transforming some other rite. It is however noteworthy that these 'meta rites' are governed by rules that equal those rules for the ritual performance proper. In her article "The Sixteenth Pinda as a Hidden Insurance Against Ritual Failure" Johanna Buss deals with a death ritual in Nepal that is supposed to transform the deceased from the helpless (but dangerous) condition of a ghost into the safe state of a forefather. However, even though this ritual should ensure the safe passage of the deceased, as a part of that ritual yet another 'ball' is offered "to the sorrowful deceased", dedicated collectively to any member of the own family who might have faced the destiny of not being transformed into a forefather. Buss concludes that there exists an awareness that the ritual can fail and the deceased has to stay in his wretched condition. Every deceased is potentially an unpacified spirit even if he has been transformed into an ancestor through the appropriate ritual. The fear of ritual failure in the described case and the performance of the relevant 'insurance-ritual'        is thus not so much a fear of making a specific mistake, but the awareness of the principle of disorder which might especially come to mind in connection with an actual case of death.

Eftychia Stavrianopoulou's paper "Ensuring Ritual Competence in Ancient Greece. A Negotiable Matter: Religious Specialist" focuses on the connection between the possibility of flawed performance and the definition of 'competence' with regard to ritual specialists in Ancient Greek cults. In her case study the interface of doctrinal and operational efficacy seems to be the notion of ritual competence. The evidence makes clear that priestly authority and expertise has been strategically defined. Given the importance of ritual in mediating relations between humans and nonhuman powers, its performance was not only crucial to its efficacy, but also to the evaluation of the abilities of the ritual specialist. An emphasis on the correctness of performance promotes and maintains expertise, but it does not rule out the right of other groups to judge the performance's correctness. Such groups are the general audience, i.e. the public attending the rituals, or the central political institutions. In that way the political community became not only part of the construction of the ritual specialist's authority, but also of the confirmation of his competence. Stavrianopoulou thus shows how in Ancient Greece the quality of the rituals is ensured right from the start: the ritual specialist was the central figure, and the risky situation was managed by writing down and revealing the ritual regulations to the public on the one hand, and by assigning nearly unlimited performative expertise to the ritual specialist on the other. The ritual is only then to be considered a failure when the person equipped with ritual expertise is ignored and a third party carries out the ritual: the specialist's infal­libility as well as the rituals' quality was thus ensured.

A central difference between 'ritual failure' and 'mistake' is that failure refers to the efficacy of a ritual whereas a mistake refers to the proce­dural performance and as such is closely related to competence and agency. However, both notions are contingent: rituals are actions and are, as any other human action, never free of contingencies. While the contingencies or 'risks' lying in a ritual's performance is concen­trated on in the section on "Mistakes, Procedural Errors and Incorrect Performances" in this volume, the contributions to this section mainly focus on the uncertainty of the outcome of a ritual, that is, a ritual's efficacy.

In many cases it is a ritual's efficacy which determines whether the action counts as 'success' or as 'failure'. However, 'efficacy' (or lack of efficacy) denotes a wide range of phenomena: the effects of a ritual postulated on a doctrinal level, its (immediate or long-term) social consequences, the fulfilment of individual expectations, empirically detectable effects, unexpected outcomes, and so on) The case studies presented here clearly show that a ritual's efficacy cannot be reduced to one of these aspects (see also Grimes 1988: 105; Tambiah 1979). The articles in this section therefore reflect on the diverse ways in which the rituals can be efficacious            or fail to produce the expected
or wanted results.

In Karin Polit's contribution "Social Consequences of Ritual Failure: a Garhwali Case Study" the 'doctrinal' (postulated or believed) efficacy of a ritual    if performed successfully        is identical with the expectations of the participants and performers: the patient was to 'overcome' her infertility. However, since the ritual failed to produce the expected result, 'emergent' aspects constituted the effects of the ritual: in that situation, the question of who or what is responsible for the failure was negotiated. As Pout argues, a long-term emergent effect of these kinds of `failed' rituals is that they can serve as social mediators, even if they have negative social consequences for certain individuals or groups involved. The 'final failure' of rituals aiming at enabling the woman to conceive children ended a long situation of suffering for two families but at the same time had negative consequences for the individual patient.

Brigitte Merz's article "When a Goddess Weeps        Ritual Failure or Failed Performance? A Case Study from Nepal" clearly shows that it is of utmost importance to throw light on an event from diverse angles in order to determine whether a ritual performance is 'effective' or not. From the audience's point of view the ritual described by Merz was `flawed' or at least it went on not as smoothly as the participants had hoped, because the medium either 'overdid' her performance or the goddess was extraordinarily upset. From the perspective of the ritual's initiator it remains unclear whether the ritual counted as success: since she wanted to ensure the gods' blessings for her son's future enterprise the success (or failure) of this enterprise will have determined her final evaluation of the performance. And finally, from the medium's point of view, what emerged out of this performance can be interpreted as a success, because her attempt to reorganise the hierarchical structures among the mediums succeeded in the long run. Here, as in Polit's case study, it is rather the 'emergence' sometimes even the long-time repercussions which determines the assessment(s) of the ritual.

Maren Hoffmeister in her article "Change of View: the Ritual Side of Serial Killings and the Conditions for Fortunate Failure" vividly demonstrates that analysing 'ritual failure' helps to understand ritualised actions that are not culturally defined as 'ritual' (see Grimes 2000: 26, 28, et passim). Hoffmeister metaphorically categorises 'serial killings' as `ritual'. Rather than 'murder is ritual' she analyses 'murder as ritual'. She looks at the conditions which make the 'ritual' fail by juxtaposing the motivations and intentions of the murderer (`personal script') with those ascribed to him by the society (`social script'). Hoffmeister's paper convincingly shows how analysing a failed ritualised activity as 'failed ritual' helps to understand underlying patterns and structures. She uses the notion 'ritual failure' as a tool for revealing collectively shared ideas and the way in which they were 'superimposed' on the performers.

"The enactment of all ceremonial (or theatrical) performances is inher­ently risky [since] the ritual performances are necessarily subject to the variable competencies of the major performers, the competing agendas and ongoing evaluations of all the participants, as well as unforeseen contingency and blind luck", says Schieffelin (1996: 80). The existence of 'competing agendas' or intentions of the participants implies that within the tradition(s) explicit critique and accusing others that they have made mistakes is the rule rather than the exception. While the scholar has to be very careful regarding the vocabulary he uses when it comes to deviations, those contributions to this volume dealing with conflicting assessments of rituals within certain traditions show that there is little hesitation in accusing other members of the same tra­dition of 'getting it wrong.' Diverse assessments of ritual events can exist side by side: varying perspectives result in diverse evaluations of what counts as 'mistake' or as successful performance. In this section competing perspectives within certain ritual traditions or social settings are unfolded. In many cases, these rituals are not a means to conflict resolution but are objects of conflicts themselves. The contributions to this section clearly show that these conflicts refer to the realm external to the ritual: not only the ritual process, but also the authority and authenticity of the ritual experts, internal hierarchies of the participants (or of the groups which are represented by them) as well as relations beyond the ritual frame are evaluated, negotiated and reorganized. Ritual mistake and failure in this sense therefore originate inside as well as outside the ritual.

Brigitta Hauser-Schaublin in her contribution "Rivalling Rituals, Challenged Identities: Accusations of Ritual Mistakes as an Expression of Power Struggles in Bali (Indonesia)" exemplifies in one case study that critique may even be integrated into performances, and at the same time can influence action outside the ritual setting. The Intaran's deities manifest themselves in humans during the performances. These superhuman agents have the right to point out mistakes and to ask for their correction      which also implies the competence and power to continuously modify the 'script' of the temple festival, to induce change or to insist on conservatism. Since these local deities are 'lower' deities (as opposed to the 'higher' deities of the immigrants), their voicing of ritual mistakes represents a 'ritual of rebellion' which, however, does not only keep alive the recollection of the local deities as powerful leading figures, but also has a lasting practical impact on the social structures beyond the ritual context. In another case study Hauser-Schaublin discusses questions of ritual mistakes by drawing on one example from pre-colonial Bali. The village community consisted in the 17th century of autochthon villagers and a group of immigrants who were, in everyday life, bound together through economic and political ties. However, during temple festivals the cultural gap between these two groups became manifest in that each of them claimed that the animals appropriate for ritual sacrifice were those they had being using before. Here the mutual accusations mirror competitive power struggles within the village community (immigrants/locals). "The evalu­ation of mistakes and the mutual accusation of committing mistakes is the result of cross-references. Mistakes [...] were not the result of the wrong application of generally approved rules but stemmed from applying one's own rules to rituals of the others", Hauser-Schaublin concludes (p. 261). The allegation of 'getting it wrong' can serve to emphasise identity for all who are involved in the process: defining what others do 'wrong' implies the affirmation of one's own 'correct' values and norms. Challenging the validity of a ritual also touches upon the crucial issue of individual or group identity "One's own ritual rules, seen as the exclusively correct way to perform rituals, are at the core of a group's identity construction" (Hauser-Schaublin, p. 263).

Similarly the constant struggle over 'ritual shares' between two Visnuite groups in Ute Hüsken's case study ("Contested Ritual Pro­perty. Conflicts over Correct Ritual Procedures in a South Indian Visnu Temple") points to a ritual's importance for identity formation. Moreover, in the context of 'ritual mistakes' Husken raises questions regarding the 'ownership' of rituals and of the right to perform them. She refers to Simon Harrison (1992) who characterises rituals as 'luxury goods' which are 'owned' and function to signify social, especially politi­cal, relationships. The right to perform certain rituals is owned by both individuals and groups, and as soon as ownership is challenged by one party, this feature of 'ritual shares' (the privilege to participate in one way or another in certain rituals) becomes evident. In that case certain ritual action is conceived of as a 'mistake' or even as an voluntary infringement of established norms from certain perspectives. Althoughthese ritual shares are only nominally connected with economic privi­leges, they are hard-fought for, since they are 'property' and constitute identity. The outcome of the negotiations within the ritual will influ­ence the wider context just as much as the outcome of negotiations in the socio-political field will influence the ritual performances. Ritual performance evidently also serves also as a medium to communicate changes and reorganisation in social structure.

The case study analysed in the article "The Unwanted Offering. Ubiquity and Success of Failure in a Ritual of the Hindu Right" by Christiane Brosius takes even more perspectives into account, namely that of the ritual's organisers and participants as well as external forces such as critics or state organisations. On the one hand, the threat of failure serves as a means of unifying the participants, on the other the actual events might lead to a decrease of the use of such rituals as a strategy of confrontation in the context of the Hindutva movement, Brosius suggests. Her enlightening contribution which draws upon dif­ferent levels of relatedness and perspectivity reveals that complex ritual events rarely allow for a final conclusion with regard to the 'success' of the performance.

Michael Rudolph, with "Failure of Ritual Reinvention? Efficacious New Rituals among Taiwan's Aborigines under the Impact of Religious Conversion and Competition between Elites", gives an impressive example of a case where competing value systems and competition between elites in a globalizing and highly hybrid cultural context leads to the rejection of a reinvented ritual despite its evident efficacy. He clearly shows that it can be very difficult to create (or re-invent) a ritual with the 'appropriate atmosphere' which meets the expectations of all participants—even socially and religiously effective rituals can die when they are sabotaged by competing groups. Rudolph argues that "the described failure of ritual invention actually seems to be the result of the unfavourable collision of individual and collective agendas in a highly hybrid cultural context [...] individual definitions of ritual practices also have their limits and can bear unfavourable results, as there exists a historically rooted, collective dimension that is imminent to ritual and that transcends any individual intentionality" (p. 334).

interest in anthropology for a long time, precisely because they are so frequently at the centre of activities of key cultural importance and social concern. Rituals bring core cultural values, ideology, knowledge and dramatic style to bear on real social relationships, problems and difficulties, often at key moments of transition or intensification. Ritu­als, in short, are often at the centre of the play of social and political forces operating in a society. For this reason anthropologists have often taken ritual events as a mirror in which the larger problems of par­ticular interest in an ethnographic case may be reflected and become amenable to analysis.

Having said that, there is a weakness in this approach. Because rituals are relatively fixed and repetitive forms, fitted in a particular way to the events which they celebrate and facilitate, they present a particular version of the relationships and forces. It is relatively straight-forward to construct an analysis that shows how cultural sentiments, symbols, and dramatic processes frame a kind of canonical story 'that the culture tells itself about itself' in order to move forward the situation or circumstances to which the ritual pertains. These sorts of analyses tend to present typical or representative examples or at least to rely on exemplary ethnographic materials of properly performed rituals held in relatively stable social circumstances. But 'proper performances' are themselves constructions with agendas by and for the groups which perform them. Our analysis may be very good as far as it goes, but important aspects of the actual play of social forces between the ritual and wider social domain are likely to be hidden from, or deliberately and customarily mispresented in, the ritual performance itself. These hidden issues may be difficult to see in the smooth surfaces of well-done rituals performed in conventional circumstances. But rituals that are flawed or that fail can provide the opportunity to see them. Historically changing social values, shifts in social sentiments, or new implications for conventional symbols, all alter or affect the significance of what is being performed.

This collection has amply demonstrated that it is often out of this wider domain of social and political tension that allegations of ritual impropriety arise. Alternatively, circumstances may alter the conven­tional social relationships between ritual performers in such a way as to render their ritual roles awkward or impossible to perform. Shifting historical circumstances, changing social configurations, subtle (or not-so-subtle) political rivalries and manoeuvrings, important recent events, and all sorts of other contingencies affect the climate and context within which rituals are performed, the circumstances out of which they arise and to which they are addressed. And because of the central role rituals play in human affairs, it is sometimes by understanding what went wrong with the ritual that we come to realise that there is something amiss in the social/cultural world.

We are now in a position to sum up the lessons to be drawn from this collection. It is not obvious that a comprehensive theory of 'ritual failure' or more broadly of 'ritual imperfection' is called for (if it is indeed possible). This is partly because ritual imperfections have such a vast array of different kinds and levels of 'causes' and consequences as to challenge notions of straight-forward explanations. But more importantly, ritual flaws are much less interesting in themselves than they are for what they reveal about other things: the way the performa­tive processes in rituals work, or, more broadly, what they reveal about a host of other issues relating to the complexities of wider social and political processes which rituals affect and which in turn have their impact on ritual. Because the study of ritual imperfection is likely to be grounded in an investigation about these wider issues of ritual and society, there are many possible starting points. However, it seems to me that any approach to the investigation of ritual imperfections must be established on the basis of answers to at least three questions.

First it is necessary to be clear about the agenda of the analy­sis—what is the investigator of ritual imperfection trying to find out? This concern is likely to differ from investigator to investigator as well as from the concerns the performers of the rituals investigated have about imperfections.

Second, the investigation must be sure to establish the various stakes and agendas of the participants, agents, or players in the ritual events, and to clarify how this positions them in relation to the allegations of flaws in the ritual. These positioned differences must be incorporated within whatever theoretical framework is being used. When this is done, allegations of ritual imperfections often emerge as a matter of political contestation deriving from tensions and struggles outside the ritual that are expressed in one way or another within it.

Finally (or perhaps firstly), the research must be done in the pres­ence of an investigation of what local ritual experts and participants believe ritual is, what it does, how it works and how to perform it, in the context of the moral, aesthetic, emotional and socio/political values that inform their practice. That is, the investigation must determine ethnographically what might be called the local 'ideology of ritual', or the local 'ethno-understanding' of the theory and practice of ritual.

If properly pursued, this investigation should lead directly to use­ful questions concerning local cultural epistemology and sociology of knowledge. But more than this: if properly pursued, the investigation should emerge in the practice of what I have called the 'ethnographic critique of the terms of analysis', in other words, the problematisation of the way we approach our subjects of investigation in relation to how our ethnographic subjects think about the same (or related) things. This entails a problematisation of our own (western, academic) categories of analysis vis-a-vis the practices and conceptualizations of our ethno­graphic subjects. In this way our analytic categories become issues of conceptualization which may be pursued in dialogue with comparable local or 'native' notions to more finely align our understanding with their experience and way of being.

The payoff of this kind of disciplined approach to investigating flawed ritual is not thus just a greater understanding of ritual itself and the social and political processes in which it is embedded and participates. It also inspires broader investigation of the general problem of the creative role played by mishaps and failures in other key aspects of culture. 

Theorizing Rituals: Classical Topics, Theoretical Approaches, Analytical Concepts edited by Jens Kreinath, Joannes Augustinus Maria Snoek, Michael Stausberg (Numen Book Series: Brill Academic Publishers) Volume one of Theorizing Rituals assembles 34 leading scholars from various countries and disciplines working within this field. The authors review main methodological and meta-theoretical problems (part I) followed by some of the classical issues (part II). Further chapters discuss main approaches to theorizing rituals (part III) and explore some key analytical concepts for theorizing rituals (part IV). The volume is provided with extensive indices.

Theorizing Rituals is more like a handbook to ritual studies in general, especially as it has been professionalized in the last 30 years.  The editors take a comprehensive approach to ritual theory in the essays are all superb and the degree that they offer survey accounts of the styles of ritual theory currently under development as well as the principal historic antecedents.  The following volume, if I guessed right, will include an extensive annotated bibliography on the subject.  Both volumes are essential for any research Library that is attempting any coverage in ritual studies.  The interdisciplinary aspects of ritual research are well represented in this volume.  And though the work is primarily designed to offer the parameters of theoretical research, the survey essays are done with such precision that they offer many practical suggestions for emic and etic approaches to the documentation and explanation of ritual behavior.

Excerpt: It is unclear when rituals first originated. Some assume that ritual, like dance, music, symbolism, and language, arose in the course of the evolution of primates into man,' or even prior to it.' Thus rit­uals may also have facilitated, or even stimulated, processes of adap­tation. Be that as it may, biologists and behavioral scientists argue that there are rituals among animals, and this has important impli­cations for our understanding of rituals.

Unlike animal rituals, however, sometime in the course of the evo­lution of (human) ritual, and in specific cultural settings, rituals have partly become the business of experts (priests). These ritual special­ists, it can safely be assumed, often not only developed a ritual com­petence in the sense of performative skills but also began to study the rituals of their own tradition. Hence, one may assume that within this process of specialization, social differentiation, and professional­ization, indigenous forms of the study of rituals evolved. In contrast to the modern, mainly Western academic study of rituals, these indigenous forms of ritual studies can be referred to as critualistics.

Ritual Studies

However, when we speak of ritual studies as an academic discipline, we are referring to the study by scholars of rituals from not only their own culture. Philippe Buc starts his overview of the history of this development, which seems to be specific to Western societies, in the sixteenth century. But it is only in recent decades that ritual studies has become a recognized branch of the academy. The pub­lication of the Journal of Ritual Studies (1987–) is a clear sign that it has come of age.

Incidentally, the emergence of ritual studies occurred in a period when many established rites and ceremonies were questioned in Western societies, and when new rituals started to blossom. In a number of ways, which need not concern us here, ritual studies reflects these processes of cultural change. As things stand now, apart from the rituals practiced by adherents in established religious communities, many new forms of ritual practice, such as rituals at the occasion of a divorce or the end of a career, are developing that have turned ritual into a diversified industry in its own right, com­prising ritual designers, bookstores, books, the internet, seminars, etc. While rituals have thus become a fashionable topic, ritual studies has in turn become a highly successful academic enterprise. At least in Germany, the study of rituals and belated cultural domains, such as performance and theatricality, have in recent years been among the heavyweights of national research funding in the humanities a fact that is gratefully acknowledged by the present writers.

The rise of rituals in the cultural and academic domains--the lat­ter, after all, being part of the former—indicates a fundamental change in the general perception of rituals. Once smiled at, despised, and regarded as forms of pathological behavior or pre-modern men­talities, rituals are nowadays generally held to be the master-keys to understanding cultures, including our own. Rituals are thought to act as powerful mechanisms for constructions of the self and the other, of personal and collective identities. And notwithstanding the existence of political rituals testifying to the contrary (such as polit­ical witch-hunt rituals or fascist spectacles), rituals are generally held to have benign effects." If we compare this current situation with the older paradigms that dominated the study of rituals, we see that this change went hand in hand with a fundamental shift in theo­retical concerns. Yet despite important examples to the contrary, also in many recent ritual studies '2 the underlying theoretical problems remain implicit. While theory is generally held to be a branch of ritual studies, it seems to us that in practice ritual studies largely neglect matters of theory. It is one of the ambitions of this volume to put theory more prominently on the agenda.

To some extent, the general neglect of theory in ritual studies may be inherent in the 'object' under scrutiny. For aren't rituals, one is tempted to argue, first of all 'action', alien to the reign of 'words' dominating theory? Aren't rituals, after all, a form of 'practice'? And isn't 'practice' traditionally held to be just the opposite of 'theory'?

While these assumptions might mirror the way in which these words are widely used in common parlance, this line of thinking has been challenged ever since Pierre Bourdieu published his Esquisse d'une théorie de la pratique (Outlines of a Theory of Practice) in 1972. Hence, it was no accident that Bourdieu's book stimulated one of the most prominent contributions to ritual theory, the work of Catherine Bell.

Ritual Theory

Just as one may see indigenous (emic) debates and discussions about ritual(s) as a form of ritual studies, indigenous ritualists have also developed (emic) theories about rituals over many centuries. But hardly anyone of them, predating the last decades of the nineteenth century, is still thought of today whenever we refer to the domain of ritual studies in an academic context. From the late nineteenth century on, however, for such nascent sciences as anthropology, socio­logy, psychology, and the history of religions, ritual was of para­mount importance. The scholarly concept of religion, for instance, came into being roughly simultaneously with the modern term `ritual'. On the other hand, the inherently religious character of rit­uals can no longer be taken for granted, and this posits a challenge for theorizing both religion and ritual. The influential Cambridge School regarded rituals as the inseparable twin of myth. Early socio­logy of religion emphasized the crucial role rituals play in the main­tenance of societal coherence, and the contemporary debate still takes its bearings (implicitly or explicitly) by this intellectual legacy. So does psychoanalysis with its observation of structural similarities between neurotic and ritual behavior." Just as these disciplines rest on a long history of debate and discussion, the topics to which they have linked ritual--religion, myth, society, and the psyche have been widely discussed, and the essays of Part II of this volume attempt to review these debates and to outline some further perspectives.

While being largely neglected in ritual studies, as the notes to the foregoing paragraph should have indicated, ritual theory--that is, theories about rituals—is by no means a blank slate. On the con­trary, much has happened in the (theoretical) study of ritual in recent decades." Indeed, much more has happened than may emerge from what is apparent in many publications on rituals-- witness the extensive annotated bibliography in the second volume. This bibliogra­phy aims to survey what we regard as major contributions to ritual theory published since 1966, a year that the editors, for different reasons (discussed in the introduction to the bibliography), have come to consider a watershed in the scholarly study of ritual. Along with the abstracts of the articles and books listed in the bibliography, an attempt is made to highlight the main empirical materials discussed by the authors, and their major references to other authors. In that way, the bibliography briefly indicates the type of rituals informing theoretical discussions (as their 'key examples' or `paradigms'), and it provides some elements for the genealogy or intellectual back­ground of the single theoretical positions, including those presented in this book." As the bibliography tries to make a much larger corpus of theoretical reflections on ritual accessible than is presented in the articles in this volume, it is more than a mere appendix.

A theoretical discussion of ritual(s) can hardly avoid the tedious question of the definition of ritual. Even if some scholars, partly for good reasons, try not to propose definitions, which they regard as incompatible with a productive approach to theorizing, in most cases a certain notion, if not an outright definition, of ritual lurks in the background, and most theories can subsequently be stated or packed in the form of a definition of their object." Thus, a reflection on definition seems a somewhat old-fashioned though still valid starting point for the theoretical endeavor in Part I. A discussion of the prob­lem of defining and definition also yields some important insights into different versions of theory and different ways of constructing theories" that occasionally have undesired effects on the progress of the debate.

Like most definitions, any theoretical focus on rituals simultane­ously raises at least two questions: What do rituals share with other features of cultural organization, and what is specific to ritual(s)?" Therefore, the relation of ritual to other forms of social action stands at the beginning of the theoretical inquiry." On the other hand, the universal validity of the category 'ritual' is open to doubt, and the search for conceptual alternatives to 'ritual' such as the notions of `public events' or 'cultural performances'   is not only challenging but also necessary for theorizing rituals. While we should not simply take the general theoretical category of 'ritual'     or 'RITUAL',-- as Handelman puts it--for granted in epistemological terms, an inquiry into possible emic equivalents for 'ritual' in some other than Latin and modern Western European languages serves as a reminder of non-theoretical alternatives to structuring the semantic universe.

An important insight from the formative period of ritual theory pertains to ritual's specific form, or structure." At the same time, `process' has become a key-term in ritual theory." While recent theo­rizing attaches greater importance to ludic elements in rituals and stresses the emergent qualities of rituals, the structural approach remains valid enough to require careful review. Against common sense assumptions, an emphasis on (syntactical) structure has even led one theorist to question the inherently meaningful quality of rit­uals." As in the case of form, once again the ensuing scholarly debate" made it clear that one should not take anything for granted when it comes to ritual--and this seems to be a reasonable starting point for any attempt at theorizing rituals.

According to a standard epistemological model, a theory is an abstract and coherent set of statements that are based on empirical observation, hypotheses, and laws. It is empirically testable and explanatory and allows one to make predictions. When applying this, or similar, epistemological standard(s), there are not many theories of ritual around." This is not accidental, because those theories of ritual that live up to such expectations such as cognitive theories share most of their premises with the epistemological model of 'the­ory' sketched above. However, there are a good number of other theoretical approaches emerging from a broad range of academic disciplines, discursive settings, rhetorical devices, logical set-ups, and methodological premises. They have different agendas, address differ­ent problems, and are inspired by different sorts of rituals as their primary empirical points of reference." Some of the approaches assembled in Part III of this volume are grounded in full-fledged macro-theoretical enterprises, such as the cognitive sciences, biology (ethology)," and semiotics while others take their point of depar­ture from more loosely organized fields of research, such as theories of action" and praxis," performance," gender studies," and virtu­ality." Further approaches apply specific theories, such as philo­sophical aesthetics, Luhmann's (system) theory of communication, and Bateson's theory of relational form," to the study of ritual.

Depending on the levels of abstraction, one can distinguish between three types of theoretical approaches to ritual: 1. Approaches that apply particular theoretical frameworks (aesthetics, cognition, com­munication, ethology, and semiotics); 2. approaches that address par­ticular fields of scholarly discourse (action, gender, performance, and praxis); or 3. approaches that consider ritual in its own terms as 'a structured whole' (relationality and virtuality). Moreover, these types of theoretical approaches offer a wide range of methodological options: they vary in their degree of rigidity, plasticity, and complexity; they also exemplify different versions of theory or modes of theorizing.

From Ritual Theory to Theorizing Rituals

However, this volume intends to be more than a mere collection of essays presenting a panorama of available approaches to ritual theory." The guiding intention here is to introduce a perspective that we refer to as 'theorizing rituals'. Here this term is not used in the estab­lished sense of 'forming theories' but instead refers to a wider scope of activities, indeed implying a multifarious agenda.

To begin with, theorizing rituals, as we use the expression, is not at all about presenting just another theory of ritual(s), or another set of ritual theories. On the contrary, the project of 'theorizing rituals' shares the general insight that the age of 'grand theories'--thus, theories that seek to explain everything   is over. As we understand theorizing, any one theory will hardly suffice to account for the complexity of the phenomena. In modern scholarly practice of the study of rit­ual, one will therefore probably always need to refer to more than one theory.

Today theoreticians of ritual(s) instead generate to-- put it more modestly--theoretical approaches, which only try to explain a certain aspect of the material concerned. Theories may be distinguished from theoretical approaches in the following terms:

Whereas theories can be regarded as explicitly formulated sets of propositions and hypotheses that are applicable to a wide range of empiri­cal data, theoretical approaches, by contrast, are concerned with a particular field of research; for this purpose, they operationalize relevant theo­ries as their general frame of reference for their argument while address­ing specific theoretical issues related to the respective empirical data. Only those approaches to the study of a particular field of research, which rely primarily on theories as their argumentative frame, can strictly be regarded as theoretical approaches.

Obviously not just one such theoretical approach is needed, but quite a number, so that together they shed as much light as possible on the subject studied  in our case: rituals. Yet it is unlikely that it would be possible to generate a complete set, such that no addi­tional approach could be thought of. There will always remain gaps between the theoretical approaches available. Comparing them reveals desiderata that every approach leaves open. In that way, new theo­retical issues or perspectives may emerge. On the other hand, theo­rizing about the multiplicity of theoretical approaches sheds light on their relative advantages and disadvantages. They may overlap and/or rival one another. This activity generates such questions as: which approach is better, elucidates more, or even is valid to begin with? In summary: theorizing requires the refinement of single the­ories, as well as their mutual critique and competition. It works in, with, and between theories. It reaches beyond particular theories and takes a meta-theoretical perspective, putting the various approaches into context.

But there is more to it. Whereas the aim of ritual theory is to articulate a particular set of hypotheses and to draw conceptual boundaries as precisely as possible, the project of theorizing rituals is an open project. It has an emergent quality. Theorizing rituals is a reflective and reflexive process. It is reflective in that it reflects upon its own procedures, trying to improve and adjust them when necessary. However, it is reflexive in that it does not claim to have a neutral, 'objective' stance, but rather points to, and perhaps even questions, its own position within scholarly discourse as such. Theorizing (rituals) is not easily satisfied by, and not even primarily interested in, 'answers' to such obvious questions as what ritual 'is', or what rituals are all 'about', how they 'work', 'function', etc. By taking stock of the answers, theorizing rituals does not take the questions for granted. It scrutinizes the mechanics by which questions are posited and answers are provided. Hence, it has the potential to look at the mechanisms of how scholarly discourse works. It is as radical as it is critical. It problematizes and contextualizes. It takes multi­ple perspectives into account. It is a multi-voiced discursive practice. And hence it offers more than just one more theory of ritual(s). Indeed, it is not satisfied with theories, and it may also lead to reject­ing claims of theory, of repositioning theory. It may play the game of theory, but it may also question its very rules. While theory aims to construct a consistent and limited set of principles, theorizing may, for theoretical reasons, opt for the open-endedness and incomplete­ness of the theoretical endeavor. In a way, it is the 'betwixt-and-between' of theory. Theorizing, it may be said, is an attempt to connect theory to other forms of scholarly practice. It is not located before 'the real things' happen (such as in fieldwork), nor does it occur afterwards, nor is it 'the real thing' itself." It is a reflexive attitude, a commitment to theory as a discursive adventure.

One more way in which the concern of theorizing goes beyond the realm of theory is by entering theoretically dense fields of schol­arly discourse that do not necessarily result in theoretical approaches. These fields are indicated by a number of paradigmatic concepts, some of which are discussed in Part IV of this book. Most of these concepts do not derive from the available market of theoretical pro­duction so much as they mark the middle ground between scholarly discourse and some apparent features of rituals, such as their having to do with embodiment," emotions," language,' media,'" transmis­sion," and also their being complex," dynamic," (presumably) efficacious,' and framed" affairs. In that way, they 'exemplify' the scholarly discourse about what is generally perceived as `ritual(s)'. While this link to the 'bare' features of ritual is also obvious for some, if not most, of the theoretical approaches there is a general consensus that rituals have to do with action, aesthetics, behavior, performance, practice, social relations, etc. The concepts are not linked to well-established theoretical, methodological, and academic programs. They are not framed as 'theories'. While they are cer­tainly theory-laden and of theoretical relevance, these concepts can­not easily be subsumed under the roof of any single theory. They cut across the borders of the theoretical approaches and have a diverse range of theoretical affiliations. But apart from being of 'exem­plary' significance for the discourse about 'ritual', and in thereby `exemplifying' scholarly discourse about 'ritual', they are 'paradig­matic' in the sense that they may powerfully model our understanding of 'ritual'. Some of the terms we have (subjectively, but also, in our opinion, strategically) selected for this section, however, are (as yet) not generally accepted 'paradigms' of ritual theory, while others have only recently turned into key-terms for the study of ritual in a sim­ilar vein as liminality' or 'flow' did some decades ago.

Agency, to take but one example of such a powerful key-concept and it happens to stand first in the respective part of the volume is an important term for different theories of action," society, and cognition. In this volume, however, agency is considered not as a clear-cut term within a well-defined frame of a theory but as a theo­retical concept allowing for, and implying, a specific style of conceptualizing ritual(s) by providing a focus. A theoretical concept theoretically conceptualizes ritual(s), and theorizing concepts re-con­ceptualizes discourse. This, however, is more than a merely termi­nological exercise, which would be concerned only with the 'technical' use of terms. By putting rituals in a theoretical focus, concepts as well as approaches may 'uncover' something about rituals and, in a reflexive turn, about our interest in them. Putting the very concepts into focus, then, may 'reveal' something about the objects, the subjects, and the parameters of discourse. Concepts also problematize such seemingly obvious things as the participation in rituals, their framing, embodiment, and efficacy.

Many of the concepts and approaches discussed here refer implic­itly or explicitly to --and in that way bridge--the observer and the observed. Performance, gender, rhetoric, and reflexivity, for instance, are crucial elements of ritual theory and ritual practice alike. The list of concepts and approaches could well be extended beyond those discussed in this book." That would be one of the further avenues of the ongoing scholarly project of theorizing rituals. The essays assembled in this volume (and the annotated bibliography) are not intended as the final word on rituals. The assembly of these essays here allows the contours of a common field of research to emerge. Yet this field is far from being homogenous and consistent. Consistency is an important aim of theory, but theorizing must find a different way of coping with heterogeneity and with the complexity and emer­gent quality of scholarly discourse.

Divination and Healing: Potent Vision by Michael Winkelman, Philip M. Peek (University of Arizona Press) Some of the world's leading authorities draw on their own participation in ritual to present detailed case studies demonstrating that divination can have therapeutic effects. In this wide-ranging volume, readers will find coverage of classic Ifa systems; Buddhist-influenced shamanic practices in the former Soviet Union; the reconciliation of Muslim beliefs and divinatory practices in Thailand; Native American divination used in diagnosis; Maya calendrical divination in Guatemala; mediumistic and chicken oracle divination among the Sukuma of Tanzania; Ndembu divination, focusing on the process of collective healing; and divination among the Samburu (Maasai) of Kenya.

Ouija boards, tarot cards, and Samburu and Ndembu castings of objects exhibit a notable feature of divination systems: objects are physically manipulated by the practitioner or client and the configuration of their "fall" is interpreted with a system of stan­dardized meanings and applied to the individual circumstance. The malleable nature of the material systems manipulated for divination suggests that they are designed to allow both conscious and deliberate manipulation, as well as unconscious behavioral dynamics to produce relevant information. The use of unconscious processes implicates a deeply embedded human information capacity shared with other animals. Humans have a variety of unconscious capacities for information processing exemplified in "blind sight", subliminal perception, and "psi" that illustrate our ability to access information not directly available to consciousness. Divinatory use of these types of systems for circumstances where many possibilities are known but specific outcomes are not, indicates the use of unconscious capacities to help direct one toward an appropriate outcome. The mechanisms by which these behavioral capacities are used remain underexamined.

Excerpt: Oracular systems obviously benefit from multisensorial pro­cessing. Too little is known about this phenomenon, but there is no doubt that divination systems employ several sensory modes, often simultaneously. Whether the operative factor is a sensory overload for the diviner and/or client or it is a process of synethesia that enhances cognition and curing is not known. Associations are established through taste and touch, through sound and sight, and in normal or (more often) altered states of conscious­ness. Regardless of the experiential source of divinatory information (for example, visual, auditory, or somatic), it is generally shared in verbal com­munication. This introduction of divinatory information into social discourse brings a variety of interpretive and negotiatory processes to the formulation of the revelation. Divination brings many different forms of knowing, sources of information, and perspectives to bear on the problem. These include per­spectives elicited from clients, family, friends, associates, and others. How do these processes contribute to healing?

The principal healing processes of divination illustrated here include the following:

  • diagnosis, including defining of the ailment, the effects of transfer­ence and catharsis, and anxiety management;

  • the social contextualization of personal life, a narrativization process; the healing power of community relations; and .

  • dramaturgical elements found in ritual action and the power of speech.

The healing of divination begins with the processes of diagnosis that reveal the unseen, articulate the unheard. A previously unknown condition is given a cause, a meaningful location. As the formless and ambiguous is structured and explained, curing has begun. Determination of causes places the dilemma within a larger framework of meaning that aids healing. Locating these issues in time and space in family history, for example, begins healing by placing the individual's suffering within a shared system of beliefs. Clients are assured that they have some recognizable ailment that is treatable and perhaps curable. Diagnosis can heal through evoking a number of emotional, psychodynamic, and psychosocial processes. Diagnosis provides relief from uncertainty and the unknown, making circumstances intelligible within one's worldview and eliciting beliefs and conviction that provide motivations toward healing.

The chapters illustrate the healing of divination through client-diviner interactions that occur in inter-actions leading up to the divinatory activity. Healing is elicited by faith and placebo effects and other mechanisms derived from the patient placing their problems in the hands of charismatic others. Jackson discusses the transference between patient and diviner that promotes healing. Diviners frequently work in areas in which they themselves have been healed, adding credibility to the likelihood of their success in treating a problem. Their personal odyssey may permit contact with spiritual entities well equipped to aid that specific ailment. Frequently the diviner and client will form an elabo­rate and deep bond, sometimes due to professional contact over many years, while in other instances there are ritual activities that create and maintain a bonding, as Lyon illustrates among Native Americans. In various parts of Africa there is a formal "twinning" process that occurs between diviner and client. The therapeutic effects of bonding and trust are facilitated by the nature of diagnosis procedures. In discovering the patient's condition and its antecedent causes, the diviner builds a relationship with client and family. A major dimension of this "diagnostic healing" derives from the dramatic performative enactment in a public context, where the patient's dilemma is transacted by all present, producing a therapeutic milieu for the social group. The interactions during the diagnostic process provide a num­ber of cathartic opportunities and therapeutic effects, allowing the patient to unburden his or her grief as the diviner details the patient's travails in the diag­nosis of causes. The diviner counsels and consoles in the revelation of causes and the potential remedies. The studies presented here demonstrate the ritu­al production of catharsis and abreaction, as is dramatically evident in Turner's essay on Ndembu divination. There is an "acting out" by the diviner, and often the client and/or community as well, which expresses and releases frustrat­ed emotions.

Colby's chapter illustrates a healing function of divination systems in a reevaluation of an old perspective that divination reduces anxiety and stress by mediating consciousness and cultural process-es. Divination reduces individual and collective stress by addressing uncer­tainty. Diagnostic processes alleviate anxieties and concerns, removing doubts, fears, and indecision and providing explanations that have psycho-logical and emotional effects and therapeutic consequences. Divination imposes stability on an uncertain world, shaping individual and collective emotions in transacting group interactions with the unknown to manage personal and social concerns. As Colby (this volume) points out, Ixil divination standardizes, emphasizes, and solidifies religious belief in a very effective way: people are exposed to this religious knowledge at a time when they are emo­tionally upset or stressed, adding an emotional charge to their learning about Ixil deities and what they sanction or punish.

Heinze's chapter places divinatory activities in this context of the need of all cultural systems to reduce anxiety and provide direction. Her research illustrates that in contrast to characterizations of traditional cultures as fatal­istic and stable, divination implies an ability to change the future, preventing illness and misfortune and altering the course of events by modifying the forces that affect one for better or for worse. Divination enables one to mod­ify one's future and one's karma through ritual. Fratkin's chapter shows div­ination enables clients to avert future problems. Divination portrays a field of actors, possibilities, and the forces arrayed against one, permitting a delib­erate response rather than suffering as the victim of others and their poten­tially unknown plans.

This view of divination as a stress-reduction process places in new light the collective aspects of divination related to proclamations of traditional cultural expectations. Colby suggests divination procedures are particularly effective in resolving stress and producing social integration because they operate upon "emic cognitive units." These are embodied in the motifs, metaphors, and proverbs of a culture and are found within the interpretative frameworks of divination systems. These cognitive units provide stability by placing individuals and their life situations in the broader context of cultural beliefs and cosmology. Divinatory interpretive systems are part of a cultural logic and reasoning processes that people use to make sense of their lives.

Encyclopedia of Religious Rites, Rituals and Festivals edited by Frank A. Salamone (Religion and Society: Routledge) Religious beliefs are expressed through ritualized behavior and festivals. Many rituals and festivals take place in public, meaning that such expressions of faith are societal as well as individual forms of human behavior. The similarity in the general patterns of rituals and festivals across cultures and religions is striking. For example, most cultures and religions mark major life-course transitions such as birth, marriage, and death with public ritual expressions, and numerous festivals are tied to food-producing activities such as planting and harvesting. Where religions and societies vary is in the meanings associated with ritual behavior and the specific forms those behaviors take. 

The Encyclopedia of Religious Rites, Rituals, and Festivals explores this complex topic through articles covering the following general categories of information:

  • General concepts and ideas such as communitas, inversion, purity and pollution, and pilgrimages

  • Major forms of ritual and festival such as rites of passage, devotional rites, sacrifice, calendrical rites, carnival, and fasting

  • Religious rites and festivals of major religions, including Buddhism, Hinduism, Islam, Catholicism, and Judaism

  • Rites and festivals in cultural regions such

  • as China, sub-Saharan Africa, and the Pacific islands

  • Life-cycle rites, including those associated with birth, coming of age, marriage, and death

  • Specific rites and festivals, such as Divali, Easter, Ramadan, snake handling, and Yom Kippur

The Encyclopedia of Religious Rites, Rituals, and Festivals contains 130 entries contributed and signed by scholars from international universities and institutes, with expertise in such fields as Asian and Pacific studies, archaeology, communication studies, cultural anthropology, cultural studies, international studies, philosophy, psychological anthropology, religious studies, social anthropology, sociology, and theology. 

An unprecedented resource, this new encyclopedia provides in-depth coverage of a vast array of worldwide practices with entries that draw on the latest research available, offering fresh insights while maintaining a connection with established scholarship. The cross-cultural coverage will help foster interfaith understanding as well as present and explain unfamiliar behaviors and rituals. 

Scholars of religion have yet to agree on just what ritual is. They also have yet to agree on the boundary (if such a boundary exists) between religious ritual and secular ritual. To some extent ritual is one of those phenomena that falls under the heading of "you know it when you see it." Despite the absence of a definition—or perhaps because of the absence—ritual has drawn much attention from religious studies scholars, anthropologists, historians, sociologists, psychologists, and other experts. Perhaps this is because ritual is often the most visible manifestation of religion and the one that first comes to the attention of outside observers.

Ritual is an enormously large and complex topic. Ritual is not static; it has varied enormously over the course of human history and across cultures. The anthropological literature is filled with detailed descriptions and analyses of rituals of several thousand cultures around the world. This means that no reference work on rituals can he truly encyclopedic because there is simply too much to cover. Nonetheless, we have chosen to be broad and inclusive in our coverage in this encyclopedia, not only covering a broad range of topics but also providing summaries of the knowledge on rituals developed by scholars from a broad range of disciplines. These scholars include anthropologists, sociologists, theologians, religious studies specialists, historians, folklorists, popular culture experts, and philosophers. This inclusiveness provides a number of perspectives that enable the reader to profit from diverse views on religion and ritual. The encyclopedia examines the relationship between secular ritual and religious ritual, between rituals and beliefs, and the manner in which rituals are used to attain practical goals. Authors provide insight into world and local religions and examine the major theories that help explain religion and ritual.

Although many scholarly approaches contribute to this encyclopedia, anthropology is in the forefront because it has had a profound influence on the manner in which other scholars view religion and ritual. Anthropology has its roots deep in the field of religion, its rituals, and its performances. Its earliest scholars, such as E. B. Tylor, Sir Henry Maine, Fustel de Colanges, and Lewis Henry Morgan, sought the origins of religion and along the way discovered a great deal about religion and its relationship to culture. E. B. Tylor (1832–1917) is generally regarded as the father of the anthropology of religion. Tylor is best known for his evolutionary theory of religion, pro-posing stages of religious development that correspond to stages of material development. Other scholars proposed other evolutionary theories, and along the way these scholars also left their marks on the field of the anthropology of religion and religious studies in general. Sir James Frazer's (1854–1941) comparative mythologies still inspire work today, as does the stimulating work of R. R. Marett (1866–1943).

Although these scholars inspired a formidable body of work, the general foundation of the modern study of ritual in anthropology, history, sociology, religious studies, and related fields rests on the work of the grand thinkers of the nineteenth century the French sociologist Emile Durkheim, the German sociologist Max Weber, the German political philosopher Karl Marx, and the Austrian neurologist Sigmund Freud. Durkheim (1858–1917) stressed the importance of understanding religion as being comprised of "social facts" that support the maintenance of social solidarity; that is, they hold society together. His nephew and successor, Marcel Mauss, and his student Lucien Levy-Bruhl added important concepts to the study of religion. Mauss put forward the idea of gift giving, an important component of many rituals, and its role in building reciprocal relationships in society. Levy-Bruhl focused on so-called primitive religion and what he termed "pre-logical" thought. The French sociologist Arnold Van Gennep (1873–1957) wrote the influential Rites de Passage looking at rituals of transformation.

German scholars made major contributions to the study of religion and religious rituals and performance. Max Weber (1864–1920) noted relationships between the social sphere and the economic sphere of human activity. Karl Marx (1818–1883) centered his studies on spiritual alienation resulting from unequal distribution of economic resources and the role of religion in perpetuating this inequality. The Austrian Sigmund Freud (1856–1839) provided insight into the world of rituals, including religious rituals. He also examined the ties between religious experience and biological and social instincts and drives.

Each of these scholars demonstrated the ties between religion and ritual and other realms of life. In doing so they helped develop ways to study religion and integrated those ways into other fields, making religion more comprehensible to students.

The German diffusionist school has had a major impact on the U.S. field of religious studies. That school, originated by anthropologist Father Wilhelm Schmidt (1868–1954), opposed the basic premises of the English and French evolutionary schools. The diffusionists argued that cultural similarities usually result from diffusion from the original place of invention to other places. Franz Boas, often seen as the father of U.S. anthropology, insisted on the primacy of culture over other factors in his work. Along the way he influenced and inspired generations of U.S. anthropologists down to the present.

In England, Bronislaw Malinowski (1884–1942) carried on the fight against cultural evolutionists, insisting on the importance of solid ethnography (cultural study) over abstract theory. Malinowski tried to establish the validity of Frazer's distinction among magic, science, and religion. The British social anthropologist A. A. Radcliffe-Brown (1881–1955) added to the work of his time in understanding the role of religion in society by establishing the connection between myth and the maintenance of the natural order of things. In a direct line with Boas, Malinowski, and Radcliffe-Brown, the British anthropologist E. E. Evans-Pritchard (1902–1973) struggled against the dichotomy between "primitive" and modern religions. The old distinctions between concepts such as monogamy and promiscuity, white and brown, and animists and monotheists made no sense in light of the data coming from fieldwork.

Current studies in the anthropology of religion have many trends. The works of scholars such as Claude Levi-Strauss, Mary Douglas, Clifford Geertz, Melford Spiro, and Victor Turner put a greater stress on the understanding of ritual. The role of psycho-analysis has remained strong, and the works of Freud and the French psychoanalyst Jacques Lacan (1901–1981) are important in contemporary arguments. At the same time studies using the insights of Durkheim and Weber have continued.

Recent work has also centered attention on shamanism and states of consciousness. Much of the work has strong psychoanalytical and psychological roots. The emphasis is on the states of consciousness of people undergoing religious experiences and rituals. Other studies focus around the use of literary criticism and the tradition of colonial criticism. These studies focus on the manner in which religions are discussed and on possible inherent biases in viewing the religions of the less powerful.

Scholars have done a great deal of soul searching in the social sciences in general and in anthropology in particular over the last fifty or so years. That soul searching has led to a greater sensitivity in the field of religious studies. There is, for example, resurgence in the study of religions of the, so-called developing world, seeing the strange in the familiar and seeing the familiar in what had once been strange in the studies of the religion and rituals of traditional societies.

Salient Points

This encyclopedia contains 130 articles, 60 sidebars of mainly primary text, and 60 photos that together are meant to provide broad and representative coverage of rituals in human history and across cultures. As with other volumes in the Religion & Society series, attention is given to the non-Western world. The articles fall into four general categories.

The first category provides context and under-standing of rituals in general by focusing on key concepts or topics that have applicability across all or most forms of ritual. This category includes articles on asceticism, communitas, magic, and taboo.

The second category focuses on specific types of religion and their diversity and similarities across cultures and religions and includes articles on agricultural rituals, identity rituals, rituals of rebellion, and naming rituals.

The third category provides overviews of the major rituals of major world religions, cultural regions, and specific cultures.

The fourth category covers specific rituals such as Christmas, Kwanzaa, and Star Trek conventions.

This encyclopedia draws on the work of scholars from a number of disciplines—anthropology, sociology, religious studies, history, cultural geography, and philosophy. It also draws on the work of outstanding international scholars. There are contributors from Asia, North America, South America, Europe, and Africa. There are representative scholars from all the world's major religions as well as scholars who profess no religion at all. These scholars provide perspectives from the cutting edge of their disciplines without neglecting prior scholarship.