Myth and ritual

In traditional societies, myth and ritual are two central components of religious practice. Although myth and ritual are commonly united as parts of religion, the exact relationship between them has been a matter of controversy among scholars. One of the approaches to this problem is "the myth and ritual, or myth-ritualist, theory", which holds that "myth does not stand by itself but is tied to ritual".[] This theory has never been demonstrated, and the current view among scholar is that the link between myth and ritual is that they share common paradigms.<ref name="Meletinsky2000p.117" />

Overview

The "Myth and ritual school" is the name given to a series of authors that have focused their philological studies on the "ritual purposes of myths."[1] They include the supporters of the "priority of ritual over myth" hypothesis, W. Robertson-Smith, James Frazer, Jane Ellen Harrison, S. H. Hooke, that claimed that "every myth is derived from a particular ritual and that the syntagmatic quality of myth is a reproduction of the succession of ritual act".[2]

Historically, the important approaches to the study of mythological thinking have been those of Vico, Schelling, Schiller, Jung, Freud, Lávy-Bruhl, Levi-Strauss, Frye, the Soviet school, and the Myth and Ritual School.[3]

In the 1930s, Soviet researchers such as Jakov E. Golosovker, Frank-Kamenecky, Olga Freidenberg, Mikhail Bakhtin, "grounded the study of myth and ritual in folklore and in the world view of popular culture."[4]

The semantic unity of myth and ritual has been demonstrated by anthropology research works made in the period following the World War II, particularly by Bill Stanner and Victor Turner; however, hypotheses of a relation of descent, as the "priority of ritual over myth," have not. The major view held currently in the field is that the link between myth and ritual is that they share common paradigms.<ref name="Meletinsky2000p.117" />

Ritual from myth

One possibility immediately presents itself: perhaps ritual arose from myth. Many religious rituals--notably Passover among Jews, Christmas and Easter among Christians, and the Hajj among Muslims--commemorate, or involve commemoration of, events in religious literature.

E. B. Tylor

Leaving the sphere of historical religions, the ritual-from-myth approach often sees the relationship between myth and ritual as analogous to the relationship between science and technology. The pioneering anthropologist Edward Burnett Tylor is the classic exponent of this view.[5] He saw myth as an attempt to explain the world: for him, myth was a sort of proto-science.[6] Ritual is secondary: just as technology is an application of science, so ritual is an application of myth--an attempt to produce certain effects, given the supposed nature of the world: "For Tylor, myth functions to explain the world as an end in itself. Ritual applies that explanation to control the world."[5] A ritual always presupposes a preexisting myth: in short, myth gives rise to ritual.

Myth from ritual (primacy of ritual)

Against the intuitive idea that ritual reenacts myth or tries to persuade mythical beings, many 19th century anthropologists argued the opposite position: that myth and religious doctrine result from ritual. This is known as the "primacy of ritual" hypothesis.

William Robertson Smith

This view was asserted for the first time by the bible scholar William Robertson Smith.[7] Scholar Meletinsky notes that Smith introduced the concept "dogmatically".<ref name="Meletinsky2000p.19" /> In his Lectures on the Religion of the Semites, Smith draws a distinction between ancient and modern religion: in modern religion, doctrine is central; in ancient religion, ritual is central.[0] On the whole, Smith argues, ancients tended to be relatively conservative with regard to rituals, making sure to pass them down faithfully; in contrast, the myths that justified those rituals could change. In fact, Smith claims that the myths that have come down to us are usually those that arose "after the original, nonmythic reason [...] for the ritual had somehow been forgotten".[9]

As an example, Smith gives the worship of Adonis. Worshipers mourned Adonis's mythical death in a ritual that coincided with the annual withering of the vegetation. According to Smith, the ritual mourning had originally had a nonmythical explanation: with the annual withering of plants, "the worshippers lament out of natural sympathy [...] just as modern man is touched with melancholy at the falling of autumn leaves."[10] Once worshipers forgot the original, nonmythical reason for the mourning ritual, they created "the myth of Adonis as the dying and rising god of vegetation [...] to account for the ritual".[5]

Stanley Edgar Hyman

In his essay "The Ritual View of Myth and the Mythic," Stanley Edgar Hyman makes an argument similar to Smith's:
"In Fiji [...] the physical peculiarities of an island with only one small patch of fertile soil are explained by a myth telling how Mberewalaki, a culture hero, flew into a passion at the misbehavior of the people of the island and hurled all the soil he was bringing them in a heap, instead of laying it out properly. Hocart points out that the myth is used aetiologically to explain the nature of the island, but did not originate in that attempt. The adventures of Mberewalaki originated, like all mythology, in ritual performance, and most of the lore of Hocart's Fijian informants consisted of such ritual myths. When they get interested in the topology of the island or are asked about it, Hocart argues, they do precisely what we would do, which is ransack their lore for an answer."[11]
Here Hyman argues against the aetiological interpretation of myth, which says that myths originated from attempts to explain the origins (aetiologies) of natural phenomena. If true, the aetiological interpretation would make myth older than, or at least independent of, ritual--as E.B. Tylor believes it is. But Hyman argues that people use myth for aetiological purposes only after myth is already in place: in short, myths didn't originate as explanations of natural phenomena. Further, Hyman argues, myth originated from ritual performance. Thus, ritual came before myth, and myth depends on ritual for its existence until it gains an independent status as an aetiological story.

James Frazer

The famous anthropologist Sir James George Frazer claimed that myth emerges out of ritual during the natural process of religious evolution. Many of his ideas were inspired by those of Robertson Smith.<ref name="Meletinsky2000p.19" />. In The Golden Bough, Frazer famously argues that man progresses from belief in magic (and rituals based on magic), through belief in religion, to science.[12] His argument is as follows.

Man starts out with a reflexive belief in a natural law, and he assumes that he can influence nature by the correct application this law: "In magic man depends on his own strength to meet the difficulties and dangers that beset him on every side. He believes in a certain established order of nature on which he can surely count, and which he can manipulate for his own ends."[12]

However, the natural law man imagines--namely, magic--does not work. When he sees that his pretended natural law is false, man gives up the idea of a knowable natural law and “throws himself humbly on the mercy of certain great invisible beings behind the veil of nature, to whom he now ascribes all those far-reaching powers which he once arrogated to himself.”[12] In other words, when man loses his belief in magic, he justifies his formerly magical rituals by saying that they reenact myths or honor mythical beings. Frazer argues that
"myth changes while custom remains constant; men continue to do what their fathers did before them, though the reasons on which their fathers acted have been long forgotten. The history of religion is a long attempt to reconcile old custom with new reason, to find a sound theory for an absurd practice."[13]

Jane Ellen Harrison and S. H. Hooke

The classicist Jane Ellen Harrison and the biblical scholar S. H. Hooke regarded myth as intimately connected to ritual. However, "against Smith," they "vigorously deny" that myth's main purpose is to justify a ritual by giving an account of how it first arose (e.g., justifying the Adonis worshipers' ritual mourning by attributing it to Adonis's mythical death)[14]. Instead, these scholars think a myth is largely just a narrative description of a corresponding ritual: according to Harrison, "the primary meaning of myth ... is the spoken correlative of the acted rite, the thing done".[15]

Harrison and Hooke given an explanation for why ancients would feel the need to describe the ritual in a narrative form. They suggest that the spoken word, like the acted ritual, was considered to have magical potency: "The spoken word had the efficacy of an act."[16]

Like Frazer, Harrison believed that myths could arise as the initial reason for a ritual was forgotten or became diluted. As an example, she cited rituals that center on the annual renewal of vegetation. Such rituals often involve a participant who undergoes a staged death and resurrection. Harrison argues that the ritual, although "performed annually, was exclusively initiatory";<ref name="Segal2004p71" /> it was performed on people to initiate them into their roles as full-standing members of society. At this early point, the "god" was simply "the projection of the euphoria produced by the ritual."<ref name="Segal2004p71" /> Later, however, this euphoria became personified as a distinct god, and this god later became the god of vegetation, for "just as the initiates symbolically died and were reborn as fully fledged members of society, so the god of vegetation and in turn crops literally died and were reborn".<ref name="Segal2004p71" /> In time, people forgot the ritual's initiatory function and only remembered its status as a commemoration of the Adonis myth.<ref name="Segal2004p71" />

Myth and ritual as non-coextensive

Not all students of mythology think ritual emerged from myth or myth emerged from ritual: some allow myths and rituals a greater degree of freedom from one another. Although myths and rituals often appear together, these scholars do not think every myth has or had a corresponding ritual or vice versa.

Walter Burkert

The classicist Walter Burkert states that myths and rituals were originally independent.[17] When myths and rituals do come together, he argues, they do so to reinforce each other. A myth that tells how the gods established a ritual reinforces that ritual by giving it divine status: "Do this because the gods did or do it."[17] A ritual based on a mythical event makes the story of that event more than a mere myth: the myth becomes more important because it narrates an event whose imitation is considered sacred.[17]

Furthermore, Burkert argues that myth and ritual together serve a "socializing function."[18] As an example, Burkert gives the example of hunting rituals. Hunting, Burkert argues, took on a sacred, ritualistic aura once it ceased to be necessary for survival: "Hunting lost its basic function with the emergence of agriculture some ten thousand years ago. But hunting ritual had become so important that it could not be given up."[19] By performing the ritual of hunting together, an ancient society bonded itself together as a group, and also provided a way for its members to vent their anxieties over their own aggressiveness and mortality.[20]

Bronislaw Malinowski

Like William Smith, the anthropologist Bronislaw Malinowski argued that myths function as fictitious accounts of the origin of rituals, thereby providing a justification for those rituals: myth "gives rituals a hoary past and thereby sanctions them."[21] However, Malinowski also points out that many cultural practices besides ritual have related myths: for Malinowski, "myth and ritual are therefore not coextensive".[21] In other words, not all myths are outgrowths of ritual, and not all rituals are outgrowths of myth.

Mircea Eliade

Like Malinowski, the religious scholar Mircea Eliade thinks one important function of myth is to provide an explanation for ritual. Eliade notes that, in many societies, rituals are considered important precisely because they were established by the mythical gods or heroes.[22] Eliade approvingly quotes Malinowski's claim that a myth is "a narrative resurrection of a primeval reality."[23] Eliade adds: "Because myth relates the gesta [deeds] of Supernatural Beings [...] it becomes the exemplary model for all significant human actions".[24] Traditional man sees mythical figures as models to be imitated. Therefore, societies claim that many of their rituals were established by mythical figures, thereby making the rituals seem all the more important. However, also like Malinowski, Eliade notes that societies use myths to sanction all sorts of activities, not just rituals: "For him, too, then, myth and ritual are not coextensive"[21]

Eliade goes beyond Malinowski by giving an explanation for why myth can confer such an importance upon ritual: according to Eliade, "when [ritually] enacted myth acts as a time machine, carrying one back to the time of the myth and thereby bringing one closer to god."[21] But, again, for Eliade myth and ritual are not coextensive: the same return to the mythical age can be achieved through myth alone, without ritual. According to Eliade, traditional man sees both myths and rituals as vehicles for "eternal return" to the mythical age (see Eternal return (Eliade)):
"In imitating the exemplary acts of a god or of a mythic hero, or simply by recounting their adventures, the man of an archaic society detaches himself from profane time and magically re-enters the Great Time, the sacred time."[25]
Recital of myths and enactment of rituals serve a common purpose: they are two different means to remain in sacred time.

See also

Articles about Mythology:
In its broadest academic sense, the word "myth" simply means a traditional story, whether true or false. (—OED, Princeton Wordnet) Unless otherwise noted, the words "mythology" and "myth" are here used for sacred and traditional narratives, with no implication that any belief so embodied is itself either true or false.
General:


Mythography,

Religion and mythology,

Aitiology

People:

Walter Burkert

External articles and references

Citations and notes
1. ^ Encyclopaedia Britannica entries on Myth and Ritual School (religion)
2. ^ Meletinsky, p.117
3. ^ Guy Lanoue, Foreword to Meletinsky, p.viii
4. ^ Meletinsky, p.109-110
5. ^ Segal 2004, p. 63
6. ^ Segal, p. 14
7. ^ Meletinsky pp.19-20
8. ^ Segal 2004, p. 61
9. ^ Segal, p. 62
10. ^ Smith, p. 392
11. ^ Myth: A Symposium, pg. 91
12. ^ Frazer, p. 711''
13. ^ Frazer, pg. 477
14. ^ Segal 2004, p. 71
15. ^ Harrison; quoted in Segal (no specific text cited), p. 72
16. ^ Hooke; quoted in Segal (no specific text cited), p. 72
17. ^ Segal 2004, p. 76
18. ^ Segal, p. 77
19. ^ Burkert (1979), p. 55
20. ^ Segal, p. 78
21. ^ Segal 2004, p. 73
22. ^ Eliade, "Myth and Reality," p. 7
23. ^ Malinowski, "Myth in Primitive Psychology" (1926; reprinted in "Magic, Science and Religion" [New York: 1955], pp. 101, 108), quoted in Eliade, "Myth and Reality," p. 20
24. ^ Eliade, "Myth and Reality," p. 6
25. ^ Eliade, "Myths, Dreams and Mysteries," p. 23

References

  • Burkert, W. (1979). Structure and history in Greek mythology and ritual. Sather classical lectures, v. 47. Berkeley: University of California Press
  • Eliade, Mircea:
  • Myth and Reality. Trans. Willard R. Trask. New York: Harper & Row, 1963.
  • Myths, Dreams and Mysteries. Trans. Philip Mairet. New York: Harper & Row, 1967.
  • Frazer, James G. The Golden Bough. New York: Macmillan, 1922.
  • Meletinsky, Eleazar Moiseevich The Poetics of Myth (Translated by Guy Lanoue and Alexandre Sadetsky, foreword by Guy Lanoue) 2000 Routledge ISBN 0415928982
  • Sebeok, Thomas A. (Editor). Myth: A Symposium. Bloomington: Indiana University Press, 1958.
  • Segal, Robert A. Myth: A Very Short Introduction. Oxford: Oxford UP, 2004.
  • Smith, William Robertson. Lectures on the Religion of the Semites. First Series, 1st edition. Edinburgh: Black, 1889. Lecture 1.

Further reading

  • Kwang-chih Chang, Art, Myth, and Ritual: The Path to Political Authority in Ancient China. 1983.
  • Burkert, W. (1983) Homo necans: The Anthropology of Ancient Greek Sacrificial Ritual and Myth, trans. Peter Bing, Berkeley: University of California Press. ISBN 0-520-03650-6.
  • Burkert, W. (2001). Savage energies: lessons of myth and ritual in ancient Greece. Chicago: University of Chicago Press.
  • Segal, Robert A. (1998). The myth and ritual theory: an anthology. Malden, Mass: Blackwell.
  • Watts, A. (1968). Myth and ritual in Christianity. Boston: Beacon Press.
  • Clyde Kluckhohn, Myths and Rituals: A General Theory. The Harvard Theological Review, Vol. 35, No. 1 (Jan., 1942), pp. 45-79
  • Lord Raglan, Myth and Ritual. The Journal of American Folklore, Vol. 68, No. 270, Myth: A Symposium (Oct. - Dec., 1955), pp. 454-461 doi 10.2307/536770
  • WG Doty, Mythography: The Study of Myths and Rituals. University of Alabama Press, 1986.
  • Stephanie W Jamison, The Ravenous Hyenas and the Wounded Sun: Myth and Ritual in Ancient India. 1991.
  • Christopher A Faraone, Talismans and Trojan Horses: Guardian Statues in Ancient Greek Myth and Ritual. 1992.
  • R Stivers, Evil in modern myth and ritual. University of Georgia Press Athens, Ga., 1982
  • SH Hooke, The Myth and Ritual Pattern of the Ancient East. Myth and Ritual, 1933.
  • HS Versnel, Transition and Reversal in Myth and Ritual. Brill, 1993.
The word mythology (from the Greek μύθολογία mythología, from μυθολογείν mythologein
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ritual is a set of actions, often thought to have symbolic value, the performance of which is usually prescribed by a religion or by the traditions of a community.[1][2]
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religion is a set of common beliefs and practices generally held by a group of people, often codified as prayer, ritual, and religious law. Religion also encompasses ancestral or cultural traditions, writings, history, and mythology, as well as personal faith and mystic experience.
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Paradigmatic analysis is the analysis of paradigms embedded in the text rather than of the surface structure (syntax) of the text which is termed syntagmatic analysis. Paradigmatic analysis often uses commutation tests, i.e.
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Philology, etymologically, is the "love of words". It is most accurately defined as "an affinity toward the learning of the backgrounds as well as the current usages of spoken or written methods of human communication".
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William Robertson Smith (8 November, 1846 – 31 March, 1894) was a Scottish orientalist, Old Testament scholar, professor of divinity, and minister of the Free Church of Scotland. He was an editor of the Encyclopædia Britannica.
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James George Frazer (January 1, 1854, Glasgow, Scotland – May 7, 1941), was a Scottish social anthropologist influential in the early stages of the modern studies of mythology and comparative religion.
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Jane Ellen Harrison (September 9, 1850–April 5, 1928) was a ground-breaking British classical scholar, linguist and feminist. Harrison is one of the founders, with Karl Kerenyi and Walter Burkert, of modern studies in Greek mythology.
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Samuel Henry Hooke (January 21, 1874-1968) was an English scholar writing on comparative religion. He is known for his translation of the Bible into Basic English.

He was born in Cirencester, Gloucestershire. He was educated at St.
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The word mythology (from the Greek μύθολογία mythología, from μυθολογείν mythologein
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Giambattista Vico or Giovanni Battista Vico (June 23, 1668 – January 23, 1744) was an Italian philosopher, historian, and jurist. Born to a bookseller and the daughter of a carriage maker in Naples, Italy, Vico attended a series of grammar schools, but ill-health and
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Friedrich Wilhelm Joseph Schelling (January 27, 1775 – August 20, 1854), later von Schelling, was a German philosopher. Standard histories of philosophy make him the midpoint in the development of German Idealism, situating him between Fichte, his mentor prior to 1800,
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Johann Christoph Friedrich von Schiller (Marbach am Neckar, November 10, 1759 – May 9, 1805 in Weimar) was a German poet, philosopher, historian, and dramatist. During the last several years of his life (1788–1805), Schiller struck a productive, if complicated,
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Carl Gustav Jung

A recent edition of Jung's partially autobiographical work Memories, Dreams, Reflections.
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Sigmund Freud

Born May 6 1856(1856--)
Freiberg, Moravia, now the Czech Republic
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Claude Lévi-Strauss (IPA pronunciation [klod levi stʁos]) (born November 28, 1908) is a French anthropologist who developed structuralism as a method of understanding human society and culture.
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Herman Northrop Frye, CC, MA (Oxon), DD, D.Litt., FRSC (July 14, 1912 – January 23, 1991), a Canadian, was one of the most distinguished literary critics and literary theorists of the twentieth century.
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Mikhail Mikhailovich Bakhtin (Russian: Михаил Михайлович Бахти́н pronounced:
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Folklore is the body of expressive culture, including tales, music, dance, legends, oral history, proverbs, jokes, popular beliefs, customs, and so forth within a particular population comprising the traditions (including oral traditions) of that culture, subculture, or group.
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A world view (or worldview) is a term calqued from the German word Weltanschauung (] ) Welt
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Popular culture (or pop culture) is the widespread cultural elements in any given society that are perpetuated through that society's vernacular language or lingua franca.
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Emeritus Professor W.E.H. "Bill" Stanner (1905-1981) was an Australian anthropologist who worked extensively with Indigenous Australians and played an important role in establishing the Australian Institute of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Studies.
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For the Victoria Cross recipient, see Victor Buller Turner.
Victor Witter Turner (May 28, 1920 – December 18, 1983) was a Scottish anthropologist.
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Paradigmatic analysis is the analysis of paradigms embedded in the text rather than of the surface structure (syntax) of the text which is termed syntagmatic analysis. Paradigmatic analysis often uses commutation tests, i.e.
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פסח (Pesach)

Judaism and Jews
Jewish
One of the Three Pilgrim Festivals. Celebrating the Exodus and freedom from slavery of the Children of Israel from ancient Egypt that followed the Ten plagues.
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Christianity

Foundations
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History of Christianity Timeline
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Hajj (Arabic: حج, transliteration: Ḥaǧǧ) is the pilgrimage to Mecca in Islam.
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