From The Art and Popular Culture Encyclopedia
A ritual is a set of actions, performed mainly for their symbolic value. It may be prescribed by the traditions of a community, including a religious community. The term usually refers to actions which are stylized, excluding actions which are arbitrarily chosen by the performers.
The field of ritual studies has seen a number of conflicting definitions of the term. One given by Kyriakidis (2007) is that a ritual is an outsider's or "etic" category for a set activity (or set of actions) which to the outsider seems irrational, non-contiguous, or illogical. The term can be used also by the insider or "emic" performer as an acknowledgement that this activity can be seen as such by the uninitiated onlooker.
In psychology, the term ritual is sometimes used in a technical sense for a repetitive behavior systematically used by a person to neutralize or prevent anxiety; it is a symptom of obsessive–compulsive disorder.
There are hardly any limits to the kind of actions that may be incorporated into a ritual. The rites of past and present societies have typically involved special gestures and words, recitation of fixed texts, performance of special music, songs or dances, processions, manipulation of certain objects, use of special dresses, consumption of special food, drink, or drugs, and much more. Religious rituals have also included animal sacrifice, human sacrifice, and ritual suicide. Ritual lamentation—song performed with weeping—in many societies was regarded as required to ritually carry the departed soul to a safe afterlife.
- Civil religion
- Obsessive-compulsive disorder
- Processional walkway
- Collective identity
- Battle trance
- Sexual ritual
- Myth and ritual
- Religious symbolism
- Reverence (emotion)