Improvisation, Ritual, Ceremony part III

Via the discussion of Wallace’s Religion: An Anthropological View and Bell’s Ritual Theory, Ritual Practice, the following points are germane to my investigation:

1. Beliefs and ideals are generated, experienced, and affirmed as real by the community.
2. Ritual is the mediator between the individual and collective, and is self-fulfilling.
3. Ritualized body is in interaction with this structured and structuring environment.
4. “Practical mastery” embeds perceptions and dispositions, and thus become so pervasive as to be “the way things are done.”
5. People do not know “what what they are doing does.”
6. Ritual not only finds meaning, expresses or impresses set of communal values, but creates an entire world view via the robustness of deployability “beyond the circumference of the rite itself.”

Stay tuned to find out how this all comes together.

And in case you feel like a good read, here’s the discussion from which these points spring…

Catherine Bell’s aim in Ritual Theory, Ritual Practice: “I abandon the focus on ritual as a set of special practices in favor of a focus on some of the more common strategies of “ritualization.” She quotes Edward Shils: “beliefs could exist without rituals; rituals, however, could not exist without beliefs.” (Bell. p.19)

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Improvisation, Ritual, Ceremony part II

Many will of course take issue with the “structuralist” nature of his framework. But at the level of analysis, and as a cogent argument for discussion, I am finding Anthony F.C. Wallace’s Religion: An Anthropological View very useful. He identifies five useful ritual typologies, which he refers to as “The Goals of Religion.” Three of these I will not be considering directly:

2. Ritual as Therapy and Anti-Therapy
4. Ritual as Salvation
5. Rituals as Revitalization

The two typologies of ritual I have identified as partially or fully germane to my arguments are:

1. Ritual as Technology
Divination (rituals of “decision making” – to short circuit logical blocks)
Rites of Intensification – Hunting and Agricultural (rain dance, possibly cave painting)
Protection (eg blessing the ships)

3. Ritual as Ideology
Rites of Passage
Rites of Intensification – Social (social cohesion)
Taboos and Other Arbitrary Ceremonial Obligations in Social Interaction
Rituals of Rebellion (Saturnalia)
(Wallace. p.107-166)

(parenthetical comments mine)

Obviously, the thirteen “elements” are employed in different quantities in the fulfillment of the aims of the five “typologies,” and different cults employ the different categories in different quantities. But what exactly is ritual?
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Improvisation, Ritual, Ceremony part I

I have been examining the nature of ritual and the possibilities for using ritual (and improvisation). The intent is to use ritual methods in conjunction with the Mysterious Objects to imbue them with meaning.

I have found two useful resources: Religion: An Anthropological View by Anthony F.C. Wallace and Catherine Bell’s Ritual Theory, Ritual Practice.

Wallace identifies thirteen elements of a religion, eight of which I will not address as of yet:
Music: dancing, singing, and playing instruments.
Physiological exercise: the physical manipulation of the psychological state.
Exhortation: addressing another human being.
Reciting the code: mythology, morality, and other aspects of the belief system.
Simulation: imitating things.
Taboo: not touching things.
Feasts: eating and drinking.
Sacrifice: immolation, offerings, and fees.

This exercise will deal with:
Prayer: addressing the supernatural.
Mana: touching things.
Congregation: processions, meetings, and convocations.
Symbolism: manufacture and use of symbolic objects

Of course, through the work, some of the elements may shift, and new categories of elements may emerge, but this is my starting framework.

to be continued.

Mapping Our Practices

Kimberly, over at paperspace gave our tutorial group the idea to map our practices, in the sense of being analytical about what we’ve done thus far this term. Here is mine.

Very Basic Practice Map

This is the first document I’ve built from the ground up in the free and open source vector graphics program Inkscape, so excuse the rudimentary layout and organization – I’m still getting the hang of it.

Mysterious Ritual Objects – Part II


In a previous post, I discussed a set of images I had taken about the process of making a set of mysterious ritual objects. Having finished construction of the objects, I started working with them today to imbue them with character and activate their “potential.”


I am interested in the concept of ritual as the system of interrelation that arises between the the object of and the performer. I stated previously that “I am interested in how an(y) object charged with the proper energy in its creation can be a vehicle for development and/or transcendence.”


And regarding ritual itself, I said “…At that point exciting, unexpected, or even frightening meanings may emerge.”


It seems that through use in this way, character and “meaning” has begun to form around each of the objects. Making meaning is no more than this. Through their forms come performative differences.


And through manifestation of these in the space of interaction, the “meaning” or “identity” of each piece is formed.


In the case of this operation, the “performer” was not an active participant inside the frame of the image, but shooting these pictures was nothing if not performance. It was only through a process of both planning the shoot and improvisation with the objects that any results were possible.


This has been a very useful stage in the ritualization process. The results stand for themselves as a process, and as aesthetic works.