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Article

Ritual Studies  

Paul Post

Ritual studies is not a school, nor is it a theory or a method; it is a multi- or interdisciplinary platform for the academic, critical, and systematic study of ritual, or in the words of the founding father of ritual studies, Ronald Grimes: it is a field. The platform of ritual studies, which emerged in the mid-1970s, initially combined the fields of religious studies, anthropology, liturgical studies, and theater studies. The emergence of ritual studies as a field of research of its own fits seamlessly into a broader development in academia that took place in three phases. The first phase took place during the second half of the 19th and the first half of the 20th centuries, when academic disciplines came into being and formed distinct profiles. The study of ritual plays a prominent role in (comparative) religious studies (Eliade, Otto, Van der Leeuw), in philosophy (ritual and symbol, Ricoeur), in anthropology and sociology (Durkheim, Turner), in psychology (Jung), and in cultural history (Huizinga). There was at this time remarkably little interest in ritual among theologians. It was not until the influence of the Liturgical Movement that a change occurred. The second phase took place during the long decade of the 1960s, which saw the start of a fruitful interdisciplinary phase. Rituals were thought to offer an effective entrance into a culture, allowing one to penetrate it deeply. The liturgical renewal project also took place after Vaticanum II, and it was in this setting that the term “ritual studies” was first used by the American Academy of Religion in 1977. The beginning of the 21st century saw the start of a new phase, during which different disciplines have been connected and integrated into large, multidisciplinary thematic clusters. In this context, the field of ritual studies features in a broad range of studies, including cultural memory studies, media and communication studies, death studies, leisure studies, material religion studies, migration studies, and many others.

Article

Islamic Relics  

Richard McGregor

Relics can be found in every era of Islamic history, throughout the Islamic world. In line with other religious traditions of the Near East, the Qur’an mentions several objects endowed with special power (e.g., Joseph’s coat, the Ark of the Covenant). The earliest Islamic literature, preserving the life and mission of Muḥammad, presents details of several revered objects. These include objects handed down from pre-Islamic prophets as well as the discards of Muḥammad’s person, including clothing, weapons, and hair. Saintly figures, descendants of the Prophet, and his companions have also been sources for relics. Relics are displayed and venerated in devotional contexts such as shrines, tombs, mosques, madrasas, and museums. Relics have been paraded on special occasions such as the festival days of the Muslim calendar, in medieval protest marches, as part of the rituals for relief from drought, and as talismans in battle. Despite the occasional objection from austere doctors of law, devotion to relics has remained commonplace. While a full inventory is impossible, five categories may be proposed for the Islamic relic: (a) Bodily relics include the blood of martyrs, hair, and fingernail parings. Shrines have been built over severed heads—the most famous being that of Ḥusayn ibn ʿAlī (d. 680). (b) Contact relics, having collected the baraka (blessing) of their one-time owners, pass those blessings on to any pilgrim who touches them. Several staffs, lances, bows, shields, turbans, cloaks, and sandals attributed to the Prophet have been preserved, some of which were presented as symbols of authority in the early caliphate. (c) Impressions in stone made by feet, hands, fingers, posteriors, and even hooves are preserved. Muḥammad’s footprints saw a brisk trade in the medieval period, and his sandal inspired a minor tradition of devotional iconography first in manuscript copies and later in modern mass production. (d) Inanimate objects, miraculously endowed with speech or locomotion, constitute a fourth category. These animated relics could be speaking stones or moving trees, particularly in the sacred topographies of Medina and Mecca. (e) Many revered places which were the site of important events have been marked off and preserved. More than commemorations, these “stage relics” anchored sacred history and holy bodies in the landscape. The location of Muḥammad’s birthplace in Mecca was until recently a revered stage relic.

Article

Women in Classical Greek Religion  

Laura McClure

As “cultic citizens,” women participated in state festivals at Athens alongside men and celebrated their own rituals apart from them, at shrines within the house and in cults outside the house in the company of other women. Their association with fertility made them indispensable performers of rites connected with the agricultural year. Women also served as priestesses, as dedicators, and as euergetai (benefactors). At home, their rituals accompanied nuptial preparations, the laying out of the dead, and the departure of soldiers for war. Female religious activity was considered so critical to the welfare of the community that it was sanctioned by law and financed by the polis. Religion further allowed women’s widespread movement throughout the city as they left their homes to participate in processions and festivals, visit shrines, sanctuaries, and cemeteries. By performing rituals on behalf of the city, Athenian women distinguished themselves from female foreigners and slaves as rightful citizens of the polis. Women-only festivals further offered opportunities to build and strengthen female social networks, to act autonomously, and perhaps even to subvert social norms. Domestic rituals accomplished by women in turn helped to mark the life stages and strengthen familial identity. The difficulties of reconstructing the ancient Greek religious system are well known, even for the period for which there is the most evidence, classical Athens. Even more challenging is the task of recovering the religious activities of women within this structure, given that men served as the primary religious agents within both the polis and household. The prevailing view that the polis mediated all religious activity, including domestic, encompassed by the concept of “polis religion,” has further obscured our understanding women’s ritual activities. Influenced by feminist and social-network theories, recent research has argued for a more nuanced model of religious activity that takes into account the varieties of individual religious experience, particularly those of members of marginal groups, such as slaves and women. It dismantles the traditional binary model of public and private by showing how polis and household were intricately interconnected and interdependent at all levels. These new approaches allow us to consider the ways in which women’s ritual activities intersected with and reinforced polis ideology, allowing women a significant presence and agency in the civic sphere, despite their exclusion from politics, commerce, and certain public spaces. It can also help us understand their engagement with noncivic celebrations and domestic ritual.

Article

Guardian and Protector Deities in Tibetan Buddhism  

Cameron Bailey

Dharma protectors are a critical and indispensable aspect of Tibetan Buddhism, but the full theological, psychological, political, and literary significance of this special class of deity and their cults is still relatively poorly understood and understudied in Western scholarship. Dharma protectors, who in their typically distinctively wrathful appearances embody and transmute negative emotion and terrifying existential realities, constitute a kind of spiritual or daemonic sangha that in their most immediate function is meant to act as an apotropic ward against any and all threats to the human Buddhist community. Further, these beings are often invoked and employed as something like “familiar” or servitor spirits for a range of purposes by Buddhist religious specialists. While there are hundreds if not thousands of different protector deities in the shifting, kaleidoscopic “polytheon” of Tibetan Buddhism, there are a relative few main deities around which Tibetans have historically and continually produced a large body of art, ritual, and narrative literature. The most soteriologically and cosmologically significant protector deities, and consequently often the most popular, are usually figures directly borrowed from Indian Buddhism, such as Mahākāla, a wrathful Buddhist form of the Hindu god Śiva, or they are adaptations of Indian deities, such as the great goddess Śrī Devī and the astrological demon Rāhula. These more “Indian” deities tend to be regarded in Tibetan Buddhism as fully enlightened and are distinguished from native Tibetan deities who are more typically seen as unenlightened or more recently enlightened protectors. The Tibetan mythology of these deities usually takes the form of a conversion narrative, describing how they were born and the events leading up to their becoming (under often quite violent circumstances) guardians of the Buddhist teachings. These Tibetan Buddhist myths, which have largely been neglected by Western scholars, imitate the structures and themes of Indian Buddhist and non-Buddhist Jātaka, Purāṇic, Māravijaya, and Avadāna literary genres, but also often transvalue and subvert them. Thus the “biographies” of these protector deities represent the dark tantric inversions of normative Buddhist hagiography.

Article

Ritual Enslavement in West Africa  

Michael Odijie

Ritual slavery occurs when humans become properties of deities. Ritual slaves fulfill religious purposes for their deity owners, although they may also serve as slaves to a deity’s representative, such as a shrine priest. The transatlantic slave trade altered the ritual slavery practices of communities that were influenced by the slave trade. The abolition of the slave trade also affected the trajectory of ritual slavery. Ritual slavery generally escaped colonial emancipation and the abolition of domestic slavery. As a result, ritual enslavement presents an opportunity to study African indigenous movements for abolition and emancipation, as the colonial administration was typically unconcerned with it and local abolition groups emerged to combat it. The study of ritual enslavement in West Africa mostly focuses on two cases where a domestic campaign evolved. The first is trokosi, which is practiced by the Ga-Adangbe, Fon, and Ewe ethnic groups on Africa’s west coast. Trokosi is the practice of sacrificing young girls to local deities as a means of atonement for misdeeds done by family members. Once dedicated, the girls become slaves of the deity and are typically placed in the custody of the shrine priest, who represents the deity on earth. The second instance is Osu, which is practiced by the Igbo ethnic group in contemporary Nigeria. Osu are people dedicated to becoming properties of the deities. While the majority of the literature has concentrated on trokosi and Osu, owing to the campaign against them, there are other cases for scholars to examine.

Article

Religious Traditions in Politics: Confucianism  

Youngmin Kim, Se-Hyun Kim, and Ji Hye Song

Because of the missionary activities of Jesuits in late imperial China and the world religions paradigm that emerged in the late 19th century, scholars tend to view Confucianism as a world religion. However, Confucianism does not fit into disciplinary boxes neatly. Accordingly, Confucian religiosity has been the subject of much debate among scholars. The answer depends largely upon how one defines religion and Confucianism. However, Confucianism and religion are not self-evident categories, but historically conditioned entities. Central to the theoretical discussion of Confucian religiosity has been the idea of transcendence. To many, Confucianism does not seem a type of religion because it does not put God at the center of attention. To others, Confucianism upholds immanent transcendence as its ideal, which does not impose an other-worldly standard but instead suggests human perfectibility. By invoking the notion of immanent transcendence, scholars caution us not to take European Christianity for granted and not to close our eyes to the array of alternative forms of religion. In addition to this theoretical debate, there have been other types of study on religious aspects of Confucianism. Anthropologists and historians have been studying practices of Confucian religious rituals in Chinese history. Rituals were a powerful method that rulers, throughout the dynasties, have employed to legitimize their rule. As with other rituals, imperial authorities patronized various rituals in the hope of attaining the support of their subjects. However, from its inception, Confucian rituals became complex interpretive arenas in which various social actors disputed, accommodated, negotiated, and rearticulated the Confucian orthodoxy according to their interests. Throughout the 20th century, mainland Chinese politicians and intellectuals often stigmatized Confucianism as the cause of China’s downfall. However, Confucianism, which had been regarded as only a hindrance by the Communists, currently appears to be a resource with which to remake China.

Article

Tantra in South Asia  

Hugh B. Urban

Tantra is historically one of the most important but also most often misunderstood, understudied, and poorly defined currents within the Hindu and Buddhist traditions of South Asia. Widely dismissed by European Orientalist scholars and Christian missionaries as a degenerate form of black magic and debauchery, Tantra has been embraced by contemporary popular and New Age audiences as a liberated path of sensual pleasure and sexual freedom. While it has been defined in many different ways by modern scholars, Tantra has played a central but often ambivalent role in South Asian religious, social, and political history. In the 21st century, Tantra remains an important though often misunderstood religious presence, both in the few surviving Tantric lineages of South Asia and in the various popular forms of tantra-mantra (in India) and “Neo-Tantra” (in Europe, England, and North America).

Article

Online Media and Religion in America  

Adam Bajan and Heidi A. Campbell

New and emerging media has played a pivotal role in Christianity throughout history. In early times, the Christian message was disseminated directly from Jesus and his followers to growing numbers of worshippers in the ancient world. This unmediated form of Christianity, while effective as a method of proselytization due to its immediacy and intimacy, was limited by how far its early disciples could travel to spread the Gospel of Christ. As communication technology developed through a series of paradigm shifts spread over several centuries of human sociocultural development, Christianity capitalized on these shifts in a variety of ways. This fostered significant structural changes to the religion due to steadily increasing levels of technologically rooted mediation over time. In its most current form, Christianity is mediated through a variety of secular digital media with online capabilities. Media are utilized by increasing numbers of Christian churches throughout America due to their potential as platforms for efficient dissemination and ability to reach large numbers of worshippers with relative ease. As churches integrate secular digital media into their structures, a third space of interconnectivity emerges in which the boundaries between on and offline lived religious practice are bridged; blended; and at times, blurred, depending on the context and level of mediation. This third space that emerges is quantified as a digital religion in which Christianity becomes redefined as a cultural practice and site of collective and individual meaning making.

Article

Memorialization and Religion in America  

Adam M. Ware

Monuments, memorials, and museums mark America’s landscape and define both the purpose of spaces and the actors who inhabit them. From the earliest colonial encounters to the new age of mass trauma, memory and its cultural accretions have conferred meaning and denied agency at the intersections of economics, politics, culture, and religious habit. Inasmuch as battlefield memorial sites and statues to fallen soldiers generate community identity through demands for consensus memories and prescribed reactions, national memorials also reflect the diversity, contestedness, and political derivation of those consensuses and those memories. Memorials form physical sites for cultural rupture and ritual redress. Memorialization ritualizes behaviors, standardizes emotional expressions, and regulates the terms on which Americans orient themselves relative to one another. Whether staging mock funerals for an English king or leaving flowers and notes at a site where forty-nine young people lost their lives, death forms a key experience responsible for memorial motivation, but celebrations of independence and victory also produce parades, festivals, and active memorial traditions. In the flows of past and present, life and death, preservation and change, and sanctity and secularism, memorial objects, processes, and behaviors mark and are marked by the historic developments in American religious and civil life.

Article

Objects and Ancient Religions  

Jay Johnston

Objects are implicit in understanding ancient religious practice. Taken as any material artifact used by an individual practitioner, faith community, or religious hierarchy for devotional or ritual purposes, objects can be interpreted as playing a number of roles in ancient religious practice. These roles include being a marker of faith identity; the physical locus of a metaphysical agent, able to be utilized in devotional practice; a talisman imbued with apotropaic effect; or an object ascribed with a ritual function (distinct from other objects of the same type), for example, a chalice. These objects are large and small, stationary and mobile. They can be carried by groups in ceremonial procession or by an individual person; worn as jewelry or installed on a domestic or public altar; buried or purposively broken; and exchanged with others to create and maintain social and interfaith relations. In addition to the recognized statue forms embodying divinities, examples may also include ancient Egyptian funerary goods, carved gemstones (e.g., Gnostic gems), pendants (e.g., Thor’s hammer or a Christian cross),votive images and dedications (including small figurines and models of building complexes), amulets (e.g., inscribed objects or texts worn on the person), sacred robes or headdresses, temple furniture, musical instruments used in rituals, relics, and pilgrim’s mementoes. Religious studies as an academic discipline has historically emphasized the textual foundations of belief practice; however, a turn toward “Material Religion” since the beginning of the 21st century, informed by broader material culture studies, has increasingly focused research upon the significant role of objects in religious practice. Of especial interest is their role in establishing, signaling, and maintaining individual and community identity and worldviews. This emphasis on material agency, although initially applied to interpreting prehistoric and indigenous “religion,” has more recently been employed to rethink identity and practice in faith traditions both ancient and contemporary. The very process of production (smelting, using naturally formed material, which may have been carved or painted,etc.), as well as how this is to be understood within a religious framework, including the metaphorical associations attributed to different types of material, has also been an area of sustained inquiry. Thus, these religious objects and what can be known of their use are “read” to understand lived religious practice. Rather than viewed as “secondary” to the written text, they are seen as crucial to the practice and development of faith. However, debate remains vibrant concerning those objects and their accompanying iconography when no, or limited, supporting textual sources exist and where conflicting interpretations have been presented. Further, there is increased recognition and critique of the degree to which academic fashions of the past have placed emphasis upon certain types of objects rather than others: for example, Greek statues contra artifacts involved in practices designated “magical” (and therefore not orthodox or mainstream; e.g., phylacteries, ritual handbooks, “demon bowls”), those employed in domestic piety (with associated gender bias), objects designated “low” culture, or objects of a rural or village practice rather than those found in urban centers.

Article

Tourism to Sacred Places in America: A Spatial Analysis  

Jeremy R. Ricketts

At its founding, the United States did not have a long history nor an official state religion to draw from to construct a national identity, so Americans turned to the creation of sacred geographies built around nature and, as time passed, the founding myths of the republic. These natural and human-built sacred places now span the United States and correspond to a civil religion that appeals to tourists. The United States even has sacred documents like the Declaration of Independence that tourists view with reverence. Sacred tourist destinations are often overtly constructed and they imbue a nation with identity, elicit something akin to religious awe, and create a place wherein public rituals and modern pilgrimages are enacted. They also underscore the diverse nature of sacred tourism in America. Religion and tourism both exist in space and use space to construct meaning. The motivations of those religious adherents who travel to sacred places are buttressed by an undercurrent of belief. Tourists, on the other hand, are not always believers, and they have diverse rationales for traveling to sacred places: some are on a quest for genuine spiritual engagement, others are seeking authenticity to offset the manufactured nature of modernity, and still others simply have an attraction to the cultural lore connected to a place. Tourists to religious sites thus arrive at a place that has been specifically designated sacred and therefore set apart, but while the place may be fixed geographically, its meanings commonly are not. Classifying a space brings it into existence as place, and this classification is regularly driven by the forces of commodification linked to tourism; it is also often contested between religious adherents and less spiritually inclined tourists and at times even within different tourist constituencies. Since human intervention is a precondition in any construction of place, sacred tourist destinations are based on mutually reinforcing relationships, and the tourists and pilgrims that seek sacred sites each play significant roles in creating, maintaining, or contesting a place’s identity. “Religious-based tourism,” “tourism to sacred places,” and “religious or spiritual tourism” each carry different connotations. While religious and spiritual tourism indicate tours undertaken solely or mainly for faith-based reasons, “religious-based tourism” acknowledges that tourists are not homogenous; those tourists whose main aim is recreational can still be religious adherents, nonreligious tourists are still usually visiting a sacred place because of its purported numinous qualities, and those whose primary goal is religious can still evince behavior typically associated with tourism. “Tourism to sacred places” or “sacred tourism” allows the flexibility to include hallowed places that are either formally religious or not. Indeed, sites of secular pilgrimage continue to proliferate wherein “pilgrim” is used indistinguishably from “tourist” because of the mixture of secular and sacred at the site itself as well as the diverse motivations of the people who journey there. A spatial examination of tourism to sacred sites must thus consider the spatial dynamics of the motivations and actions of people within a commodified and contested place that draws tourists, pilgrims, and the many who are both.

Article

Festivals in Ancient Greece and Rome  

Fritz Graf

Festivals are periods of time, cut out from daily life, during which a group performs activities that are most often thought of as communications with the superhuman world. Festival names in Greece and Rome often express this close connection with a divinity, a hero, or a human founder, or they refer to a ritual activity that is characteristic for a festival. The basic ritual elements that underlie a specific festival scenario are similar in both cultures (as well as in other cultures of the ancient Mediterranean world): processions, sacrifices with ensuing banquets, and athletic and musical contests are most common and exist already in the festival descriptions in Homer, such as the New Moon festival on Ithaca in the Odyssey. Common festivals founded and expressed group identity, first and foremost on the city level, but also for smaller and larger groups, from the family and clan group to the tribe or the community of all Hellenes. Greek and Roman festivals were so similar in their basic forms that, during the Imperial epoch, cities in the eastern part of the Empire adopted Roman festivals despite the fact that Greek cities followed a lunar calendar, whereas Rome early on had introduced a luni-solar system. The one festival type absent from the Roman world, at least during the Republican epoch, was the mystery ritual that, typically through a one-time initiation ritual, founded groups that transcended a single city, as well as the limits of gender and social status. During the Imperial epoch, both Rome and the cities of Greece continued their traditional festivals, but also developed their festival calendars in new directions, continuing and exploring innovations that had occurred already in Hellenistic times. An early development was ruler cult, developed in the Greek cities during Hellenistic times and adopted for the cult of Roman emperors, who exploited its potential to tie together a heterogeneous empire through shared cultic activities. The most important driving force was an understanding of divine power that was defined through its helpful manifestation and thus allowed the cult of outstandingly powerful humans. Wealthy citizens of Hellenistic cities also founded festivals in the memory of family members, and during the Imperial period, such foundations multiplied and gained in grandeur. The Imperial epoch also saw the extension of single festivals to events that lasted many days, if not an entire month and helped to shape the Christian festival calendar with its long festival periods.

Article

Pilgrimage in Buddhist Tibet  

Paul B. Donnelly

The English word “pilgrimage” has been used to translate the Tibetan nekor or nejel, which means to circumambulate or to meet a sacred place, respectively. “Tibet” here refers not only to the modern Tibetan Autonomous Region but also to what has been called “Ethnographic Tibet.” This area includes the three provinces of Utsang, Kham, and Amdo, but also regions outside the modern political borders of China, such as Ladakh, Zangskar, Bhutan, Dolpo, and Mustang. The people across these regions share a common written language, largely similar social institutions and values, and a shared sense of historical connection. Though lesser known in the West than the doctrinal and meditative traditions of Tibet, pilgrimage has always been central to the religious lives of the people of the Tibetan cultural regions. In fact, while doctrine and meditation have been the purview of the elite monastic scholarly minority, pilgrimage has been far more pervasive and practiced by laypeople as well as the monastics for purposes both worldly and soteriological. Though religious elites or even ordinary Tibetans may describe pilgrimages in sophisticated Buddhist doctrinal terms, what they actually do is often as rooted in indigenous Tibetan conceptions of place and sacred power as it is in Buddhism. The concept of sacred place preceded the introduction of Buddhism into Tibet, and sacred places have remained important to both adherents of the Bön religion and of Buddhism. Pilgrimage to holy mountains, lakes, caves, and “hidden lands” was, and remains, central to Bön practice. This fact is consistent with the Bönpos’ self-identification as the preservers of the indigenous religion of Tibet. Buddhists in Tibet visited and venerated these powerful places, either overwriting their pre-Buddhist understandings with Buddhist ones or allowing the autochthonous powers respect alongside Buddhist practice. One well-known myth describes the Buddhist taming of Tibet in terms of Buddhist masters subduing and pinning down a demoness identified with the land of Tibet itself. Once tamed, mountains, lakes, caves, and hidden lands became understood in terms of tantric Buddhist doctrine and practice. After the conquest of Tibet by the People’s Republic of China (PRC) in 1950, pilgrimage became difficult for many Tibetans. This remained the case until the liberalizations of the PRC in Tibet in the mid-1980s. This shift allowed Tibetans to resume the practice of pilgrimage and opened Tibet to Western scholars interested in the practice. Since the mid-1990s, scholarship on Tibetan pilgrimage has flourished, and some scholars have turned their attention to pilgrimage in the ethnographically Tibetan regions in Northern India.

Article

Overview of Architecture and Religion Since 1500  

Thomas Barrie

The architecture of Judaism, Christianity, and Islam during the historically significant period of the 16th through 20th centuries reveals many similarities and differences. Particularly important are the architectural languages each employed to materialize, facilitate, and communicate their religion, and how they changed over time. Additionally, the ontological and symbolic roles of architecture and the key theoretical approaches to the subject are relevant contexts. These include typological taxonomies of organizations, path sequences, and historical, conceptual, or symbolic characteristics. Lastly, seven primary roles of religious architecture—historical, authoritative, commemorative, theocentric, cosmological, prestige, and community places–can effectively situate and contextualize particular examples. During the pivotal 16th century, popes remade St. Peter’s Basilica and the Vatican and transformed Rome into the ecclesiastical and political center of Christianity; Jews built substantial synagogues that reflected their status during the Golden Age of Jews in Poland; and the Ottoman Empire built some of its most significant mosque complexes that expressed the hegemony of the theocratic state. Subsequent periods of the architecture of the Abrahamic religions illustrate particular themes, and explicate the variety of roles, and relative importance, of the architecture at particular periods. Modernism, in particular, produced significant changes in the architecture, where complexity, ambiguity, inventiveness, and oscillations between tradition and innovation reflected the impacts of new technologies, liturgical reforms, and global architectural cultures. Throughout, the capacity of architecture to materialize and communicate ontological, historical, religious, and sociopolitical content and accommodate communal rituals cannot be overstated.

Article

The Impact of Televangelism on Christian Beliefs and Cultural Values in Tanzania  

Kaanaeli Kaale and Joyce Bazira

Religion is a collection of beliefs and rituals derived from societal and cultural norms and practices to create a bond with God. Africans practiced traditional religions before the 19th century, adopting modern Christian beliefs that spread via radio and newspapers. The development of information and communications technology enabled Christians in Africa, especially in Tanzania, to use the media to increase religious freedom and start modern African Traditional Religion (ATR) churches. the past two decades, African scholars have observed the proliferation of the media landscape from a more holistic perspective to understand both the positive and negative relationships between religions and the media, generally used to promote ATR. ATR combines beliefs from different African cultures, such as worshipping spirits, the sun, trees, stones, and other things based on their location. Televangelists, which mainly include prophets and apostles, have used the media extensively to persuade people to become more religious in traditional ways. Televangelism’s contribution to promoting ART beliefs among Christians has given rise to cyber churches, which have contributed to changes in church shape, structure, textual content, and social behavior. Scholars use culture and critical theories to understand the unique ways in which televangelists use the media to develop neo-Pentecostal groups that depart from the Protestant and Catholic Churches. Three critical concepts relate to a better understanding of televangelists’ media use: (a) televangelism’s promotion of African Indigenous religion among Christians, (b) televangelism’s influence on modernist changes in churches, and (c) Christians’ perception of the consequences of televangelism among Christians. In general, discussing the media’s impact brings ethnically diverse groups together to solve social–economic issues and advance ATR in Jesus Christ’s name.

Article

Ritual  

Barry Stephenson

In contemporary scholarship, the term ritual serves double duty. On one hand, ritual is a theoretical concept; on the other, ritual is a catchall term for a diverse set of cultural forms or practices, such as worship, baptism, parades, coronations, and festivals. These two uses of the term ritual are typically intertwined. As a distinct concept and discourse, “ritual” emerges in early modern Europe during the Reformation era, accompanying the emergence of secular modernity, taking its place alongside related concepts such as religion, art, ceremony, culture, and the secular. In the post-Enlightenment period, the intellectual and cultural influences of Protestantism, Rationalism, and Positivism created a general climate of suspicion about ritual’s merits: ritual was often deemed a backward, premodern cultural form, just as religion was considered a stepping-stone on the path from a magical and animistic worldview to modern science. At the same time, however, there emerged within European culture a longing for a perceived loss of transcendence and sociality, which included the urge to recover or reinvent lost or suppressed rites and cultural performances. Running through European thought, culture, and scholarship is a tension between ritual’s conserving and transformative potential. In the 19th century, in the new disciplines of anthropology and sociology, and in the detailed, comparative study of textual traditions, ritual was given considerable attention, although research was largely focused on the practices of non-Western and historical cultures; this research, coinciding with the heights of European colonialism, was often saddled with prejudicial and stereotypical views of ritual. The turn, however, to studying ritual in the field (rather than only in texts) laid the foundation for the emergence, in the 1970s, of ritual and performance studies as an interdisciplinary area of research, shaped in part by feminist, postcolonial, and critical theories. An important feature of this “performative turn” was to explore the connections between ritual and art, especially performative arts such as music and drama. Until the mid-20th century, ritual, under the influence of structural functionalism, was usually theorized as a stabilizing, normative social practice. In the 1970s, there begins an effort, stimulated by the thought of Victor Turner, to develop a more dialectical understanding of ritual, emphasizing both ritual’s aesthetic, expressive qualities; its relationship to other performative genres such as music, theater, and sports; and its dynamic role in processes of cultural change and transformation.

Article

Art and Religion in Ancient Greece and Rome  

Robin Osborne and Caroline Vout

One of the challenges shared across cultures and faiths is the intangible, ineffable nature of the divine. One problematic, yet theologically productive, solution to this problem is to embody the divine in sculpture and painting; another is to seek divine aid and attest to divine presence by making votive offerings. In the absence of a sacred text, it was sculptural and graphic representation of the divine that made sanctuaries and temples in Greece and Rome theologically active places. But the need to experience god was not confined to these centers. Greek and Roman gods were everywhere—on coins, gems, drinking vessels, domestic wall paintings. Even when they were not there, their power could be felt in the representation of those who had felt their power. They were as pervasive as they were all seeing. This article examines how this material culture worked to bring gods and mortals into contact. It does so by tackling three major issues: first, it discusses how a wide range of artifacts, monumental and modest, shaped sanctuary space and guided and recorded the worshipper’s interaction with the divine; second, it looks at images of gods themselves and how these affected epiphany, while maintaining a critical gap and insisting on their strangeness; and third, it uses art to rethink the relationship of religion and myth. Although there are some continuities between cultures, the rise of Hellenistic and Roman ruler cults created a new subcategory of gods, creating additional representational challenges. Out of this came Christ, who was god incarnate. We briefly explore how early Christian artists used the problems of anthropomorphism to their spiritual advantage.

Article

magic, Greek  

Radcliffe G. Edmonds III

Greek magic is the discourse of magic within the ancient Greek world. Greek magic includes a range of practices, from malevolent curses to benevolent protections, from divinatory practices to alchemical procedures, but what is labelled magic depends on who is doing the labelling and the circumstances in which the label is applied. The discourse of magic pertains to non-normative ritualized activity, in which the deviation from the norm is most often marked in terms of the perceived efficacy of the act, the familiarity of the performance within the cultural tradition, the ends for which the act is performed, or the social location of the performer. Magic is thus a construct of subjective labelling, rather than an objectively existing category. Rituals whose efficacy is perceived as extraordinary (in either a positive or negative sense) or that are performed in unfamiliar ways, for questionable ends, or by performers whose status is out of the ordinary might be labelled (by others or by oneself) as magic in antiquity.

Article

mysteries, Bacchic  

Fritz Graf

Mystery cults of Dionysos are attested to in Greece from the late Archaic epoch and expanded to Rome in Hellenistic times. They appear in two forms, the group (thíasos) of ecstatic women (mainádes) who celebrate their rituals in the wilderness outside the city and in opposition to the restrictive female city life; and the thíasos of both men and women that constitutes itself as a cultic association and celebrates inside the cities but preserves the ideology of a performance outside the city. The main goal in both types of cult groups was the extraordinary experience of loss of self through drinking wine and dancing; the mixed-gender groups often added eschatological hopes. The purely female thiasoi were led by a priestess of Dionysos, whereas the mixed-gender groups were often led by a male professional initiator. The most conspicuous trace of these initiations are the so-called Orphic gold tablets that attest to the expectations for a better afterlife.

Article

mythology, Greek  

Sarah Iles Johnston

Myths were told in a broad variety of contexts by a broad variety of people in ancient Greece. Unlike fairy tales and fables, Greek myths focus on specifically named individuals, such as Heracles and Athena, who interact with other such individuals across a span of different stories, creating a network of stories and characters. Although Greek myths explore many of the same plots and themes as other traditional tales, they were particularly interested in tales of heroes, metamorphosis, and love affairs between gods and human women. Ancient intellectuals interpreted myths as allegories or as distorted versions of real history. Modern scholars have used a variety of approaches to interpret Greek myths, most of which have been anchored in act of comparing them to the myths of other cultures: the ritualist approach, the structuralist approach, the psychoanalytical approach and narratological approaches. In the past few decades, there has been increasing interest in mythography and in the reception of Greek myths.