A ritual is usually defined as a religious ceremonies or ways of worshipping as a set of rules and behavioral patterns surrounding symbols that represent various meanings, notions, and values, which become traditions within a culture or religion usually for longer than a century. In religious rituals, symbols and divinity are key elements. Again, the most important part to understand with religious rituals is the symbol itself is not what’s worshipped, but what that symbol represents within a way or system of belief (in religion, it’s usually the Almighty).
At the simplest level, a ritual is any sort of ceremony – marriage rituals, initiation rituals, religious holiday rituals, birth rituals, or postpartum rituals, etc. In many sources, myths, cults, worshipping, ceremonies are shown as synonymous to rituals, which is not right, because these are not always same. Every religious group has its own unique rituals. For instance, Friday prayers in Islam is a ritual. We can see some of the most recent examples in Rumi school of divinity that is named Sufism. Things like music, painting, dance can be also identified as some worldly rituals.
History of Ritual
Some of the early examples regarding rituals can be found in the ancient discoveries that belong to Paleolithic Society. The drawings that can be found on cave walls provide some insights about the history of rituals. The bull as a choice of one of earliest ritual symbols, for instance, represents the importance the strength of this animal has. In Neolithic Period, plants gained some symbolic value, and female anatomy was included with its ability to procreate as the symbol of God as Creator.
The Elements of a Ritual
- Usually, a ritual needs to be performed traditionally for at least a century before it’s accepted as a ritual in its definition.
- Gathering around a symbol which represents the notions like fear, respect, awe, or danger.
- Within a belief system, to follow the same patterns of worshipping
- The legendary and fairytale like feel in it
- To have a sacred meaning
- To have socio-cultural importance
- It’s among the topics of sociology and anthropology
- It creates collective conscience
In their missions, rituals turn today into a bridge between the past and the future. With their element of solidarity, rituals help groups of people to create powerful bondings within that group.
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