I have always been curious about rituals. Certainly they have a basis in fact and can be shortcuts to important answers, but I have a questioning nature.
For instance, a friend lived in an apartment complex. One cold morning she went out in the parking lot to take her children to school. When she started her car, she heard an awful sound, a scream from under the hood.
She opened the hood (bonnet) and found the remains of a cat that had evidently crawled up on the warm engine the previous night to keep warm and possibly fell asleep. The cat had gotten caught in the fan or fan belt and met a ghastly demise.
She quickly closed the hood, so her children and others could not see, and drove her children to school. She stopped on the way home and had the engine cleaned.
She did not tell anyone about what had happened, but each morning before she started the car, she gave the hood several good thumps to awaken anything that might have crawled into her engine.
Her children were curious, so she told them that she was just "waking up the engine." Later she noticed that before they left for school, her children would thump the hood of her car to "wake up the motor". Then other children in the apartment complex began doing the same thing.
A ritual was born. Good idea, but for the wrong reasons.
I wonder how many other rituals had similar beginnings?
Rituals have a deep history that stems back to early Homo Sapiens, and perhaps even further back.
The first rituals celebrated successful hunts. The cave drawings in France show the importance of the Bison and other animals to the success of Man. It perhaps became the first ritual to gather in a cave or other sacred place, and pray for a successful hunt. Thus we have the beautiful drawings in the cave.
When man settled down and became less nomadic, along the shores of rivers, he noticed the flooding seasons and the dry seasons, and knew when to plant and when to harvest. The Nile is supposed to flood each year, bringing life-giving moisture and soil for crops. The Egyptians worshiped the Sun, and followed the progression of the seasons, of course. Native Americans were mostly nomadic, but still celebrated successful hunts, marriages and funerals.
When the Romans invaded the Pagan Anglo Saxons, who had deep rituals for each season and watched the equinoxes very carefully. To appease them when Christianity came, they set Christmas at the time of the Winter Solstice, despite the evidence that Christ was born in the early spring when the lambs were born. December 25 is really the first day a normal person can first tell that the days are starting to get longer, a happy thing to celebrate- as if they were never sure the Sun was going "come back" again. Stonehenge is really a very careful astronomical observatory, with the stones set to mark the seasons and many other astronomical events. Scientists are still trying to decipher Stonehenge completely- it is a miracle of ingenuity. Some people think aliens helped them make it. I think to say that is to underestimate our ancestors.
Of course, Modern man has all sorts of rituals and celebrations- from Christmas to Birthdays to the Fourth of July in the USA. It is neat to research the first Thanksgiving, a harvest that was hard-won and helped by the Native Americans, who introduced corn (maize) and fertilization with fish. Nowadays, we make thousands of personal rituals, both big and small, from thumping the car hood to making sure all the doors are locked at night to Mardi Gras all year long in New Orleans.
But the science behind these rituals goes back more than 50,000 years to our early ancestors, who were scratching out a subsistence living, and celebrated when a child grew to manhood. Many of the children never made it that far- thus perhaps the beginnings of Birthday parties! :)
Interesting, I had a different take on ritual. For example my family has a get together every year. We all make soup and there is a contest for best soup.
This started as a rare once in a lifetime event. Everyone had a good time and enjoyed it so it turned into, "Let's do this again this year!" So this turned into, "That was great! Next year let's do this again!"
This became a yearly family ritual.
It is just enjoyment and wanting to recapture that joy, year after year.
Perhaps because everyone realizes and notices relatives don't stick around earth forever. Cherish them while they are still around to be cherished.
Your true story gave me an idea for this fiction story. A man bought a beautiful hand made dresser from a craftsman. He brought it home and sat a lamp on top. The bump from the lamp disturbed a nest of hornets that were hiding inside the dresser! So from that day on he always knocked on wood before he would buy it, for good luck! He wanted to be lucky and have no hornets ever come out again.
Now knocking on wood doesn't seem like a silly superstition. It seems a good idea at the next garage sale!
symbols, myths, dance, rituals
answered 11 Jul '13, 16:14