One of the astounding practices of every society in the world is rituals. From the most highly
developed societies in the world to the most primitive tribes in the depths of the jungles, rituals are
part of their lives. No one knows when early man started to involve himself in rituals, but there is
archaeological evidence showing that rituals go a long way into history. Human skeletons which are
millions of years old show that the bodies were buried with some kind of ritual.
Basically, what is a ritual? It is an
elaborate step by step
procedure, usually in the presence of a
crowd and often with links to religion. Rituals are conducted at various stages of a person's life -
- from birth to death. They are always part of a religious celebration. But, strangely enough, there
are rituals which are not religious.
There are a few important rituals in an individual's life. In every society, birth is an important event.
Rituals at birth differ from society to society but they seem to be similar in one thing; the parents
are expected to share their joy. Then comes the event to name the baby. This is usually a religious
event. The Christians have what they call baptism and most other religions have their equivalents.
After this there are rituals at each stage of the child's life. Most are minor ones like the one among
Hindus, where there is a ritual that initiates a child to education. When a child reaches puberty there
will usually be a ritual to mark his or her entry into adulthood. In some tribes, attaining puberty is
an important event. Elaborate rituals, often in stages and lasting several days, are
indulged in. The
man or woman coming of age is made to feel the importance of the position that he or she has
attained and all the accompanying responsibilities that he or she now holds. Usually, after
undergoing the ritual he or she is considered an adult, may attend meetings, take part in hunting
Do we have a modern equivalent? At first thought it may not seem obvious, but the twenty-first
birthday celebration is actually a modern form of this. After attaining 21 years of age, a person is
allowed to vote, he may move out from his parent's home and no court will force him to obey his
parents. His friends usually signify his entry into manhood by giving him a golden key.
The first great ritual that involves two people is the wedding. Most societies have elaborate rituals
to celebrate weddings. There is much feasting and dancing, and this is easily the most important
ritual that a person is conscious of undergoing. Basically, it involves a lot of promises being
undertaken by each partner to the other and to each other's parents. Usually this is a religious
ceremony, but in most modern countries there are government departments that conduct simple
rituals, without any religious significance; but no less dignified.
Entries to associations or even professions are sometimes through a ritual. Another type of ritual is
when a certain stage has been completed. Anyone who has attended a kindergarten graduation
would have seen the elaborate ritual that is organized and conducted to make the kiddies feel so
important. Most of these are social rituals and have no religious significance. In fact there are even
rituals conducted by governments. If you have seen a tree planting ceremony, you will understand.
Basically all that is requires is for someone to plant a tree. But what an elaborate ritual? A VIP is
invited, ribbons are cut, the tree ceremoniously planted and watered and speeches made.
But why are rituals conducted? The reason appears to be that for some reason, we enjoy them.
Research shows that man simply likes rituals. Seeing that rituals are only for important
the reason is probably that, something needs to be done to
impress in our minds the importance of the occasion on which the ritual is conducted. For example, no couple will ever forget their wedding. The vows are solemn, the ceremony often in a place of prayer and the ritual before hundreds
witnesses. Certainly this will impress in the minds of the couple, that they are taking a very important
and serious step in their lives.