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expression of shared feelings and attitudes through more or less formally ordered actions of an essentially symbolic nature performed on appropriate occasions. A ceremony involves stereotyped bodily movements, often in relation to objects possessing symbolic meaning.
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- any formal action which is set apart from profane action and which expresses sacred and religious meaning (see DURKHEIM; DOUGLAS). This usage of the term occurs in both anthropology and the sociology of religion.
- ‘bodily action in relation to symbols’ (Bocock, 1974).
- any everyday practice which is characterized by its routine nature and by its significance to mundane social interaction. The term has been used by GOFFMAN (1972) to denote the routine practices of everyday life.
A distinction can be made between ritual or ritualistic behaviour and ritual action. Ritual behaviour is behaviour which is devoid of meaning, rigid and stereotypical. Ethologists may use the term to denote the routine and repetitive behaviours of animals during courtship and defence of territory. By contrast, ritual action is imbued with shared social meanings which are culturally transmitted through custom and tradition. Ritual occasions may be regarded as social situations which are separate and ceremonial. They are not necessarily characterized by rigidity and repetition, although these might be a feature of many rituals. Rituals may function as a conservative and cohesive force within a society, but they may also be the means for demonstrating social, political and cultural resistance (see Hall and Jefferson, 1976) – see RESISTANCE THROUGH RITUAL.
Whilst it has been common to study ritual action from perspectives within the SOCIOLOGY OF RELIGION, it is possible to suggest that ritual action is present in secular society. Bocock has argued that ‘the category of ritual action is not well established within sociology’, but he suggests that the term can be usefully employed to cover civic, aesthetic and political aspects of social life as well as rituals associated with the life-cycle. SECULARIZATION does not necessarily lead to a decline in ritual action. Such action may be present in the performing arts (e.g. mime and dance) and civic ceremonies (e.g. state funerals and graduation ceremonies) – see also CIVIC RELIGION.
Life-cycle rituals (see RITE OF PASSAGE) continue to have significance in both simple and complex societies. The growth and decay of the human body is a feature of all human societies and consequently necessitates social control and management. Life-cycle rituals are key areas enabling biological change to be made socially meaningful and significant. Life- cycle rituals can be used both to integrate a newly born child into the group and to affirm the continued existence of a group in the event of the death of one of its members. Van Gennep (1909) suggested that rites of passage mark both biological changes and changes in social position. Rites of passage may be seen as characterized by a common structure involving:
- separation of the individual from the old order or previous social condition;
- a marginal or transitional phase which is highly sacred;
- a final stage which incorporates the individual into the new social order or status.
Ritual action may be seen to be present in all areas of social life and is one of the key means whereby both individuals and groups resolve problems encountered in both the sacred and profane aspects of social existence.
(in Russian, obriad), a body of conventional, traditional acts which lack direct practical purpose but which serve as symbols for certain social relationships and for visually expressing and reinforcing those relationships. The concept of ritual should not be confused with the broader concept of custom, which designates not only symbolic acts but any action repeated and reinforced by tradition.
Preclass societies are characterized by a lack of differentiation between everyday, work, and religious rituals. With the rise of social classes, the state, and the church, rites that are peculiar to the church arise, along with rituals and ceremonials associated with social, state, and political life (such as ceremonies at court). At the same time, traditional rituals continue to exist, surviving for a particularly long time among peasants. These traditional rituals include work rituals associated with farming, such as the harvest rituals zazhinki and dozhinki and the stock-raising rituals for the spring putting out to pasture of livestock. Similarly, there are rituals associated with fishing, hunting, the building of new dwellings, and the digging of new wells. Traditional every day rituals also include family rituals, such as those associated with births, deaths, initiations, and weddings. Because of the cyclical nature of agricultural activity, which follows the calendar, work rituals in the first category are customarily called calendar rituals, to distinguish them from family rituals.
Rituals may be magical (including verbal magic), symbolically demonstrative, or in the form of games. Rituals of a later date are characterized by the development of symbolic and play elements and the loss or transformation of the magical elements, which originated in primitive agrarian, herding, and craft work and the stability of communal, tribal, and family (especially patriarchal) relationships.
Among many peoples, rituals performed individually (and often secretly) were accompanied by prosaic or poetic charms and sayings. Rituals performed collectively (by a tribe, commune, family, or work group) were also accompanied by songs. Rituals of divination (mantic rituals), which attempt to foretell the future of those involved, form another special group.
Significant changes in ritual tradition take place in the capitalist period. This process deepens during the period of socialist reconstruction of society. The traditional rituals, especially those of magic, are forgotten, become symbolic, or take the form of play. In the USSR and other socialist countries, a new, socialistic ritualism is forming.
REFERENCESChicherov, V. I. Zimnii period russkogo zemledel’cheskogo kalendaria XVI-XIX vv. Moscow, 1957.
Propp, V. Ia. Russkie agrarnye prazdniki. [Leningrad] 1963.
Anichkov, E. V. Vesenniaia obriadovaia pesnia na Zapade i u slavian, parts, 1–2. St. Petersburg, 1903–05.
Sartori, P. Sitte und Brauch, vols. 1–2. Leipzig, 1910–11.
K. V. CHISTOV
a type of rite, a historically evolved form of complex symbolic behavior, a codified system of actions (including speech) that serve to express certain social and cultural interrelations, such as the recognition of certain values or authorities or the maintenance of a system of social norms.
In the most ancient religions ritual served as the chief expression of cult relations. (Compare Engels’ statement about the role of ceremonies in pre-Christian cults in K. Marx and F. Engels, Soch., 2nd ed., vol. 19, p. 313.) Subsequently, with the development of a mythological system and then a religiophilosophic system, mythological interpretations of rituals appeared, as well as ritual means for “dramatizing” a myth. Although such religions as Christianity, especially in its Protestant forms, proclaim the primacy of the “spiritual” side (dogma and feelings) over ritual, in practice the preservation of religious relations in the masses is assured to a large extent by the effect of traditional systems of rituals, which constitute the most conservative element of religion and the interpretation of which changes as social life becomes secularized. This necessitates viewing various types of rituals as they are linked with the society’s historically evolved systems of values and norms.
Rituals play an important role in the history of society as a traditionally developed method for socially educating individuals and for acquainting them with the collective norms of life. Rituals are forced into the periphery of social life by the development of legal norms, of a system of moral concepts, of elements of rational conduct for the individual, and of a scientific consciousness. Rituals then exist mainly in the domain of ceremonial forms of official conduct and everyday relations, such as civil ceremonies, etiquette, and diplomatic protocol.
in biology, a standard signaling behavioral act used by animals in communicating with one another. A ritual usually consists of a series of characteristic body movements or actions, often accompanied by specific sounds or the discharge of odoriferous secretions. Animals use appropriate rituals at crucial moments of interaction, for example, when protecting territory against incursions of rivals, at the first meeting of a male and female, when selecting nesting sites, or when mating. There is a special ritual corresponding to each such situation. Rituals are often distinguished by their great complexity, as, for example, the courting behavior of the male stickleback and the dances of bees.
Rituals developed from movements associated with the everyday activities of animals, such as locomotion and feeding. Under the influence of natural selection, especially sexual selection, the initial movement changes in speed, amplitude, and degree of coordination with other movements, acquiring greater specificity and signaling expressiveness. In the course of this process—ritualization—the contours and coloring of the areas of the body most closely associated with the movement may change. Rituals play an important role in animal communication, both among invertebrates, including mollusks and arthropods, and vertebrates, from fish to mammals.
REFERENCESDarwin, C. Vyrazhenie emotsii u cheloveka i zhivotnykh. Soch., vol. 5. Moscow, 1953.
Lorenz, K. “Evoliutsiia rituala v biologicheskoi i kul’turnoi sferakh.” Priroda, 1969, no. 11. Pages 42–51. (Translated from English.)
Hinde, R. Povedenie zhivotnykh: Sintez etologii i sravnitel’noi psikhologii. Moscow, 1975. (Translated from English.)
Hinde, R. “A Discussion on Ritualization of Behaviour in Animals and Man.” London, 1966. (Philosophical Transactions of the Royal Society of London, series B, vol. 251, no. 772.)
E. N. PANOV
What does it mean when you dream about a ritual?
This dream may represent one’s commitment to an ideal or to a relationship. It is symbolic of a ceremony that may be expressing the dreamer’s change in attitudes or some other major change in their life.