The performance of rituals is an integral part of all religions. A ritual is some repetitive act that takes place at a set time and location. Rituals also involve the use of symbolic objects, clothing, words, and hand gestures.
Everyone Participates in Rituals:
For example, going to church on Sunday is a common religious ritual for Christians. As a ritual, it entails the donning of a different set of clothing, as well as interacting with others in a specified manner [hand-shakes, hugs, calling them brother/sister so-and-so, etc.] while gathered to a set-apart location. Once gathered for this experience, members ritualistically participate in reenacting the life, teachings, and death of Jesus Christ.
However, even for non-religious persons — Sunday may still be a day of ritualistic behavior. Millions will don a different set of clothing that marks their favorite sports team, interact with others thru high-fives and various team cheers, all while gathered to a set-apart location [the stadium or the TV room].
Rituals reinforce the basic tenets of a group and facilitates bonding between the members. When the Catholics, for example, participate in the mass — it is [for the members] a ritualistic participation in the body and blood of Jesus and, by extension, a communal affirmation of the acceptance of the administrators of the mass [the Catholic priesthood].
Rituals are often charged with high emotions. The rush of brain chemicals and “good” feelings that people receive during rituals are what provide the positive reinforcement for continuing them. This is the same mechanism that binds two humans together during sexual relations [which are themselves rituals]. All rituals that a person participates in makes him or her “feel good”, and thereby reinforces the belief that their group is “true” and reinforces the morals associated with that group.
The state also has rituals to bind the mind of the citizenry to the “national identity”. For example, within the United States — the pledge of allegiance to the American flag will often begin a government-school day or a public meeting.
While many cultures do vary in the prevalence and forms of the more minor rituals — there are five main rituals [archetype rituals] that mark the progress of a member of the group thru the main stages of life. Though they may vary slightly from group-to-group in terms of form and symbolism — any group, religion, tribe, etc. will have:
- Birth Rituals
- Puberty Rituals
- Marriage Rituals
- Funerals Rituals
- Communal Meals
Within an LDS Context:
When a baby in born to LDS parents [some time within the first few months] the congregation will allow time for the father and other male family and friends to use the Melchizedek priesthood to place the child’s name on the records of the Church™ and to give a blessing by the influence of the Spirit.
When an LDS boy reaches age 12, he will be receive the Aaronic priesthood, in the office of deacon. This marks his exodus from the female-dominated environment of primary classes and his entrance into the male-dominated environment of the Young Men™ program.
When an LDS couple decide to marry, they must participate in a large set of rituals. First, there must be a temple recommend interview by both a bishop and a stake president. Then, they will participate in a preparation class for the Temple™ that will be taught by a fellow member of their congregation. There may also be more informal preparation of family/friends telling them what to expect, what kind of Garments™ to buy, etc. Finally, there is the rituals associated with the Initiatory™, Endowment™, and Sealing™ ordinances. In conjunction with this, LDS couples must also go thru the ritual of obtaining permission from the state to marry [as other non-LDS couples do].
Upon death, an LDS member’s family will typically organize a funeral service. If this service is held in a Church™ building, then the bishop presides at the meeting and will conduct it. If it is held in a home, at a funeral-home, or at the graveside, then the family presides. Typically, families choose to have funeral rituals conducted by the bishop in a Church™ building. As such, it is a Church™-governed ritual and the bishop is charged by the Oral Law to ensure that the funeral is simple and dignified, contains music and brief addresses and sermons centered on the gospel, and includes the comfort afforded by the atonement and resurrection of Jesus Christ. An LDS funeral is an opportunity to teach the Gospel™ and testify of the Plan of Salvation™ — though they may also provide an opportunity to pay tribute to the deceased. Such tributes will not dominate a funeral service. Having large numbers of people share tributes or memories can make a funeral too long and may be inappropriate for a Church™ service. Further, the Church™ will authorize the dedication of the member’s grave by a family member who holds the Melchizedek priesthood.
Finally, I want to discuss communal meals. This archetypal ritual is particularly important because it occurs with more regularity than the “milestone” rituals. A member of a group may participate in thousands or hundreds of thousands of these communal meals during the duration of his or her lifetime.
While the “milestone” rituals may provide the traveling guideposts on life’s journey [something to look forward to and something to always look back on], communal meals act as a constant boost and reinforcement for a person at more regular intervals.
Within an LDS Context:
The communal meal ritual is represented by the Sacrament™ during our Sunday meeting block.
Controlling the Communal Meal:
Because communal meals are more intimate [the sharing of food] and occur more frequently than other rituals — they carry with them great power to direct and connect the mind. Thus, religions, states, and corporations seek control over them, to use them to concentrate power within their respective hierarchies.
“Seems that you are looking for or seeking some form of “agape” feasting in which earlier Christians met for a common meal with each bringing some food; historical references do not clarify the earliest practice of such meals but there are lots of theories and ideas concerning it…
…By the way, the Council of Laodicea in 364 tried to outlaw the “agape” feastings for they were outside the “church control” – but they continued.”
Here is the excerpt from decision of the Catholic church in 364 AD:
NEITHER they of the priesthood, nor clergymen, nor laymen, who are invited to a love [agape] feast, may take away their portions, for this is to cast reproach on the ecclesiastical order.
IT is not permitted to hold love [agape] feasts, as they are called, in the Lord’s Houses, or Churches, nor to eat and to spread couches in the house of God.
The Church™ likewise would not permit individual tribes within a congregation to utilize “the Lord’s House or Church” for their tribal worship services. Church™ leaders hold full authority over the Church™ buildings [which power has been given them by the keys of the church] — and they use that power to provide a morsel of bread and a thimble of water to the congregations. Further, they structure meetings according to the commandments of men [assigning talks, lessons, musical numbers, etc. in advance] so as to remove any chance of the Spirit manifesting herself spontaneously. This is done to keep the members in a spiritually-starved state — so they must continue to come back and feed at the Church™.
The entrance of the television into family homes represents another attempt to usurp the power of communal meals to bind families together. For a typical American child, the first meal of the day is eaten from a package and in front of a favorite television show. This breakfast ritual ingrains the messages from the corporations in charge of the show’s content and the advertising commercials.
Next, this child will be dropped off at his/her government school. Their next meal will come from the school’s cafeteria. Corporations exercise their control over the food choices [most often thru vending machine choices, etc.] while the state has expressed recent interest in gaining more of that control.
Finally, the third meal the child will have again will likely come from a package and be eaten in front of the family’s favorite sit-com or sporting event — or maybe will be eaten in the child’s room alone.
Activating Tribal Meals:
In addition to tribal sacrament meetings [which is an important tribal ritual], tribes should also make a daily meal into a communal ritual. Secular research has verified that the more often children eat a meal with the family:
- The less likely they are to abuse drugs
- The less likely they are to break the law of chastity
- The less likely they are to commit suicide
- The more emotionally fulfilled they are
- The more healthier their eating habits are
- The better they do in their chosen fields of study
A survey found that the 9-14 year-olds who eat dinner with their families at home are more likely to eat fruits and vegetables and less likely to consume soda and fried foods. Further, the average American spends more than 40% of the family’s food budget on meals outside of the home. Plus, the average meal outside the home costs $8 per person — while in-home meals average $4.50 per person. Also, the average restaurant meal has as much as 60% more calories than a homemade meal.
Thus, even if your current tribe still consists of a monogamous, nuclear family — Tribal meals can still have a profound impact on strengthening your tribe from conspiring groups. Remove your tribe from the influences of manufactured entertainment and manufactured food. Imagine your family’s diner table is the alter upon which your tribe will offer daily thanks for the blessings God has granted you. Offer this sacrifice daily, at an appointed time. Approach it as a ritual, invoke the priesthood to ask God for all things, form a prayer circle, etc. — and it will activate the unifying power inherent in rituals to bring your tribe closer together.
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