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babybird
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04 May 2014, 5:00 am

When I was watching the news the other day, I saw all the Christians in the church making the pope a saint.

Anyway, I get how people might believe in God and all that, but I just don't get all the strange rituals that come along with the catholic church.

They was shaking powder about the place and lining up and then there was all this music like off the Omen movies.

It's all very mysterious to me.

And in a way I found it a bit chilling, I don't go to church so I'm not used to what they do there.

I was just wondering about where all the rituals come from and what they are for?

That's all.


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TallyMan
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04 May 2014, 5:10 am

Ritual and ceremonies are humans' way of marking an event. It is a public way of telling everyone else that an "event" or change has happened. Thus humans invented engagement parties, wedding ceremonies, funeral ceremonies and numerous religious rituals to publicly tell everyone that "something" has changed. In the example you gave it is to make the public aware that as far as the Roman Catholic church is concerned, two of its former popes are now saints.


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babybird
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04 May 2014, 5:21 am

So has it got nothing to do with god then?


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TallyMan
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04 May 2014, 5:27 am

From the Catholics point of view, it possibly is God related. However, humans like to create such rituals and ceremonies irrespective of belief or otherwise in a god. We similarly celebrate birthdays, historic events, the crowning of a new king or queen and so on. Each event has collected its share of rituals over the years to flesh out the ceremony.


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babybird
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04 May 2014, 5:36 am

Oh right, I think I'm starting to understand it all now.

I still think it's all a bit spooky though.


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simon_says
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04 May 2014, 8:41 am

Ritual is a throwback to magical practices. There are rituals in the bible, like sacrifice and scapegoats, that go much further back in the ancient near east. Those people had a real fear of demons and evil and had a range of magic spells to expel them. If you were Egyptian and died you'd better have magical spells written on your tomb or coffin in case you needed them to wake up and get out. Ritual practices and items left in your tomb can make your next life easier.

Jewish ritual is often about purity. Sacrifice and scapegoats help with that and the dead sea scrolls often deal with extreme variations of purity seeking. If you pour purified (spiritually) water into an unclean bowl does uncleanliness travel up the water stream and impurify the previously clean water? Which hand do you wash first? Those are big subjects to people looking for ritual purity.

I don't know much about Catholic rituals. I assume their rituals generally deal with purification. Some Christians believe they are literally eating the body and blood of Jesus and may believe this has some sort of purification effect.



khaoz
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04 May 2014, 12:38 pm

Maybe rituals and ceremony generate contributions, donations, income, because I think a lot of what the Catholic Church is about is money.



Tim_Tex
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04 May 2014, 12:49 pm

khaoz wrote:
Maybe rituals and ceremony generate contributions, donations, income, because I think a lot of what the Catholic Church is about is money.


Nearly everything is about money these days.


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TallyMan
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04 May 2014, 12:50 pm

khaoz wrote:
Maybe rituals and ceremony generate contributions, donations, income, because I think a lot of what the Catholic Church is about is money.


You're not wrong. Spouse commented about the sainthood ceremony on TV about all those bishops in their fine garments adorned with jewels etc. That ceremony must have cost enough to feed a small country full of starving children for a year.


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simon_says
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04 May 2014, 1:24 pm

It's also a kind of physical representation of the faith versus works argument. Do you get divine favor by believing or by doing? If doing is at all important then having rituals is helpful. Keep the Torah, slaughter a bull to Zeus, say your spell or whatever. You're better off just by acting. Unless a tradition forbids foreign rituals obviously. Then you're in trouble.

Protestants often look down on ritual. Or they used to. As if it's a degenerate form of religion. Faith is what they care about.



Oren
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04 May 2014, 1:26 pm

It bonds people and gives them a sense of belonging. It's how societies exist. Commonality.


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04 May 2014, 5:19 pm

Oren wrote:
It bonds people and gives them a sense of belonging. It's how societies exist. Commonality.

One way in which rituals do so is by demanding investment of time or resources. Wearing your Sunday best to church means you have to invest in either buying some clothes for special occasions, or keeping them in reserve and putting extra effort into maintaining your everyday clothes. You have the opportunity cost of not doing things that you would do if you weren't taking part in the ritual. If the cost is high enough, it excludes most people who just pretend to care about the community. One way to make it more likely that a signal is honest is by making it costly.

Rituals also create an ingroup who know how it goes and an outgroup who doesn't. Demarcation against the outgroup seems to increase cohesion of the ingroup.

Rituals often involve synchronised activity. There is a hypothesis that humans evolved to enjoy synchronised activity (singing, dancing) because synchronised activity is needed for many cooperative actions, for example hauling a net, building a house. Those who enjoy that stuff are more likely to cooperate, and get benefits which curmudgeons don't.



TheHermit
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05 May 2014, 9:32 pm

For the most part, rituals are a reenactment of an event, usually something from long before the people performing were born, if it ever actually happened at all. Catholics have the Stages of the Cross which retrace the last hours of the life of Jesus. Before that was the scapegoat of the Jewish Passover, and so on into the mists of time until you get to the original idea which may have been astrological, such as the sun appearing to stay 'flat-lined' on it's latitude for 3 days during the winter solstice, or perhaps the idea that the world was created from the body of a slain god, or perhaps something else entirely, but you get the point.

Ritual adornments are part of ancient magical practice which attempts to busy the conscious mind with symbols, music, prayers, and to create a special mood to help massage your mind into accepting the theme at hand, with incense, clothes, and so on. There's nothing special about robes and oils and pentacles except that your conscious mind is easily fascinated by such things and that helps the larger unconscious mind gain some temporary ground which allows access to information buried deep within which is usually drowned out by day to day living. (Words like "fascinate" and "glamour" have their origins in this type of magical thinking.)

And finally some rituals come straight from "god" (that unconscious mind which is always speaking and seldom heard) such as is found in modern times with the Ghost Dance vision of American Indian shaman Black Elk. As was his tradition, a shaman would have a vision and then reenact that vision using the costumed tribe members to represent the spirits from the vision. The ritual would confer some healing effect on the tribe.

Group bonding is not important in religious rituals, but creating a group of initiates is often important. You give power to a thing by marking a boundary around it. Tell a kid not to open something, and you can bet he's going to spend all day wondering what it hides, and probably trying to open it despite the warning not to. The only sermon I remember from going to (Catholic) church was one about how Jesus refused to work miracles in a certain town. When asked why, he said that the people there didn't believe in him and therefore he couldn't perform any miracles even if he wanted to. Similar to this is the Qi-gong masters who only demonstrate their powers on their disciples. The master can cause a surge of energy to pass through the body of their students so that they hop around uncontrollably, but they know their touch would have little to no effect on non-believers. This is the basis for hypnotism, or "mesmerism," which was named for someone who healed people with magnets, which he had heard a Jesuit professor was doing, until Mesmer's student did the same thing without magnets and with just phrases about believing one's self to be healthy. The mind has a very strong grip over the health of the body, the general outlook of a person, and what they focus on, and therefore how they perceive the world around them. Change this and you effectively change the perceived universe for that person. This is probably the basis of ritual practice, magick, psychiatry, and hypnotism which is an accepted medical practice today.

What is really being done is the planting of seeds in the mind which take time to grow and mature. Nothing happens immediately in the practice of magick or alchemy, as their goal is not to materialize things from thin air, but to quicken select natural processes.


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05 May 2014, 10:16 pm

Ritual and symbol/symbolic gesture are both currency of the subconscious mind. Accessing that is a large piece in how transcendental states can be achieved - both in communicating to and receiving communication from the subconscious.



babybird
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06 May 2014, 3:54 am

Thanks everyone.


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