The concept of liminality was first used to describe the structure of rituals like the one at the centre of The Encounter, but its application as a term for thinking about modern societies is connected to the study of theatre and performance. The anthropologist who made the connection, Victor Turner, distinguished the ‘liminal’ experiences of tribal cultures – in which ritual is a collective process for navigating moments of change – from the ‘liminoid’ experiences available in modern societies, which resemble the liminal, but are choices we opt into as individuals, like a night out at the theatre. This distinction comes with a suggestion that true liminality, the collective entry into the liminal, is not available within a complex industrial society. Now, perhaps this has been true – but here’s my next wild suggestion. The consequences of that very complex industrial society are now bringing us to a point where we get reacquainted with true liminality. To take seriously not just what Dark Mountain has been talking about, but what Monbiot and Harris are touching on, is to recognise that we now face a crisis which has no outside. The planetary scale of our predicament makes it as much a collective experience as anything faced by the tribal cultures studied by Turner and his colleagues. […] To navigate at these depths, you need a different kind of equipment. Facts alone don’t cut it down here.
Posts tagged ritual
“One thing that you immediately notice when you set out to study the cultures that flourished around the Mediterranean a couple thousand years ago is that none of them – not the Egyptians, not the Greeks, not the Etruscans and none of their neighbors either – had a word in any of those languages for what we today consider religion. They had a very rich religious vocabulary, but it would have been incomprehensible to them if a person had said, “I am a ___.” Religion was merely part of a broader spectrum of culture and concerned primarily with what a person did not who they were or what they believed, a fact which is reflected in their vocabulary. To use the Greeks as an example, the word that is most often suggested as an analogue for our “religion” was eusebeia. Literally this means “good or proper reverence; piety, loyalty” or as one ancient Greek commentator remarked, “that portion of justice which is concerned with divine matters and giving to the gods their due.” Another commonly found term was threskeia which means “conducting religious ceremonies, worship.” Other words are therapon “divine tendance or service”, proskynesis “inclining towards; bowing, intense respect or devotion” and by extension any dedicated act expressing powerful religious sentiment, nomos “custom, tradition, law” and so on and so forth. A related concept was deisidaimonia “fear of spirits”, which had largely negative connotations suggesting superstitious, extravagant or foreign types of worship. All of these, as you can see, were primarily concerned with actions.”
201501030 (via http://flic.kr/p/AUy3Kc )
Time is the default sacrifice. It is the measure of sacrifice that underlies our complex economic order, so it is no surprise that it also underlies our ritual order. In religions that have a Sabbath, an entire day of productivity is sacrificed to God every week. Every ceremony involves the sacrifice of the time of participants; often, ceremonies involve the sacrifice of time by high-status persons. An arraignment is a ceremony in which the legitimacy of a person’s incarceration is established; not much information is exchanged, but the ceremony requires sacrifice in the form of a grand courtroom built for the purpose, as well as the time of grand personages such as the judge and two attorneys. Ritual attendants such as court reporters and bailiffs are required as well. The sacred value of “justice” is understood to be the target of these sacrifices.
Imbolc (syncretic) (via http://flic.kr/p/r3M2Lq )
Imbolc (syncretic) (via http://flic.kr/p/r3ERY4 )
In 2008, the psychologists Pascal Boyer and Pierre Liénard at Washington University in St Louis went so far as to claim that ritual creates a distinct attentional state in which we consider actions on a much more basic level than usual […] Ritual shifts attention from the overall pattern of events toward their component gestures. Instead of noting only that a bowl is being cleaned, the witness to a ritual might notice the acceleration of the hand across the bowl’s edge during each wiping gesture, or the way the cloth bunches and then opens as it is dragged forward and back across the surface. What’s more, the repetition of gestures makes it harder and harder to resist imaginatively modelling them, feeling how it might be to move your own hand in the same way. This is precisely the way that repetition in music works to make the nuanced, expressive elements of the sound increasingly available, and to make a participatory tendency – a tendency to move or sing along – more irresistible.