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rite

1. a formal act or procedure prescribed or customary in religious ceremonies
2. a particular body of such acts or procedures, esp of a particular Christian Church
3. a Christian Church

Rite; Ritual

(religion, spiritualism, and occult)

The form of a religious or magical ceremony, usually following a traditional structure. Isaac Bonewits states that "the word `ritual' comes from the Latin root related to `number' or `counting,' the way things are to be done (that is, `one after another'). . . . In all rituals the crucial point is to do things in the proper order in the proper way, usually as prescribed by custom or tradition." Ritual is made up of "things said" (legomena) and "things done" (dromena).

Van Gennep divides ritual into three parts: separation, transition, and incorporation. The first involves withdrawal from the world. In transition, one is "between the worlds" (a term used by Wiccans to describe being in the consecrated Circle). In the final stage, incorporation, change is integrated into life. This can be seen on a broader scale in the many parts comprising the initiation process in most primitive societies. The beginning of such an initiation involves complete separation from what, to that point, has been normal life. This often requires the initiate to go to a separate living area, overseen by the initiator. In Voodoo, this period can last as long as nine days. The actual ceremony of initiation marks the transition to a new level of being. Finally, the initiate returns, with newfound knowledge and experience, to his or her family and everyday life. As Van Gennep has observed, this entire process takes place, in compressed form, in any act of ritual. Ritual is a means of bringing undivided attention to vital issues of such a ceremony.

Rosemary Ellen Guiley argues that the most effective rituals engage the senses, alter consciousness, and open the gateway to visionary thinking. Most effective rituals incorporate such elements as special dress, altar and paraphernalia (candles, incense, and sacred figures), chants, prayers, mystery dramas, dance, and song. These adhere to a prescribed formula, determined by the purpose of the ritual. Sir James Frazer suggests that in primitive ritual, the rites are generally magical rather than propitiatory.

Wiccan rituals are usually led by a priest and/or priestess, who may or may not have an entourage of aides. Wiccan rituals include celebratory rituals for the seasons, such as the eight sabbats of Witchcraft; rituals for births, marriages, or deaths; rituals for healing; and rituals for divination. Rituals may be performed by individuals or by groups such as covens.

R I T U A L M AG I C see CEREMONIAL MAGIC

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