What makes a ritual a ritual?
- What are the “requirements” that make up a ritual? Here are some typical characteristics:
There are certain actions that are repeated each time the ritual is performed.
- Those actions should have a symbolic meaning or special significance.
- They are performed with a certain frame of mind, a special sense of occasion, a ceremonial atmosphere.
- Rituals often have a series of steps, or stages. Think of a wedding, for example. Think about how many stages there usually are in a wedding. What does each stage represent (what does it mean or symbolise)?
To the Teacher
This activity works primarily with drama, but it can be extended to include art-making, music and/or dance. This will need some planning, so read through the activity in good time to develop the various elements. The activity may need to continue over more than one session. It is important to give your learners time to work together in a careful, thoughtful way.
A modern-day ceremony
Work in groups of four or five: We have said that traditions and rituals developed over time as a way of meeting the needs of societies in earlier times. We mentioned that these evolved to provide a way of dealing with the crises, challenges, mysteries or life-changes that communities needed to address. Rituals tend to help us understand or absorb the importance of certain moments in our lives.
Many important life events remain the same throughout the ages – births and birthdays, marriages, the death of loved ones. But can you think of any life challenges, passages or common crises that we face today that were totally unknown to our forefathers?
In groups of four or five, you are going to create a ritual especially for the modern day – for your time in history.
Create a new ritual to symbolically cope with a modern-day crisis, challenge or life change. Your ritual should encompass a series of stages, each with its own sense of symbolic meaning.
Here are some examples of modern-day situations that might call for a ritual. Think about how extraordinary, and perhaps unnatural even, these activities would seem to someone
in an earlier age of history:
• Going on an aeroplane journey.
• Having your photograph taken.
• Talking on a cell-phone.
• Using the Internet.
You can think of others. First, brainstorm with your group. Remember, your ritual must address circumstances that your great-grandmother would not have known, or even dreamed of.
At the end of the process, perform your new ritual for the class, with all the solemnity and dignity usually given to such events.
Afterwards, discuss all of these modern-day rituals.
Did they feel appropriately ceremonial and “ritualistic”? Did they incorporate symbolic meanings at each stage? What power did they embody – that is, what effect did they have on your “community” (you and your class)?