Relationship Between Ritual Language and Myth Essay

Pages: 6 (2049 words)  ·  Bibliography Sources: 6  ·  File: .docx  ·  Level: College Senior  ·  Topic: Mythology - Religion

¶ … Myth, Ritual, Language

The relationships between myth, language and ritual are often complicated and interesting and to a large degree culturally. Thinking of how concepts of each; myths, language and ritual all evolve over time is an interesting issue in the context of anthropology as well as in the context of humanity in general. All societies leave behind legacies of evolving cultural artifacts and some of these artifacts find themselves, evolving into the present, often without any real connection to how they came to be the way they are, they simply are and they are accepted and understood by most of the cultural population associated with them. It would seem strange to look at a modern business publication to better understand this complex association between myth, ritual and language but within this work is a gem of knowledge that relates fundamentally to the question at hand. The context of the work is organizational change and the focus of it is in the idea that when a culture (in this case a business) seeks to change its organization it must also change its cultural artifacts, and then it offers a fantastic definition of cultural artifacts:

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Cultural artifacts are those sets of attributes -- objects and behaviors -- that help definitively characterize one organization as opposed to another. There are at least five primary types of cultural artifacts -- key values and norms; myths and sagas; language systems and metaphors; symbols, rituals and ceremonies; and the use of physical surroundings including interior design and equipment (Shrivastava, 1985). The latter four of these artifacts can be used to help change the organization's key values and norms, including those that are themselves significant enough to be cultural artifacts. (Higgins & McAllaster, 2004, p.64)

Essay on Relationship Between Ritual Language and Myth Assignment

The goal of the passage is to allow change agents to better understand that tradition, including environment, myth, ritual and language must be altered in order for a lasting organizational change to occur. In a more historical perspective these evolutions of cultural artifacts, take place much more slowly, evolving as the needs and focuses of the culture evolve. It is then difficult though exceedingly helpful as an insight into human evolution (in a social and cultural sense) for anthropologists to seek out examples of the evolution of myth, ritual and language in a given culture and better understand them. This work will look at both modern and historical examples of how cultural evolution occurs and in so doing pay particular attention to how myth, ritual and language play a part in that evolution.

The first cultural example that this researcher would like to focus on is one that seems to be enduring, as Christmas and the ritual, language and myth surrounding it is an enduring social construct that is only limitedly understood, in its historical evolution. We as a culture and especially as a western Christian culture have been told; "this is how we perform these rituals, this is how the mythology is and this is how we use language to describe it and interact within it." Yet we have hardly ever really looked at its history as a cultural artifact and how the myth, ritual and language have changed over time to create a whole picture of what we celebrate today as Christmas. Hutton, looks very closely in his work the Stations of the Sun: A History of the Ritual Year in Britain at the construct of Christmas and seeks to explain its evolution. In his work are countless examples of myth, ritual and language that seek to explain the current conceptions of Christmas. In one of the first passages in the work Hutton discusses the ideation of the nativity and the winter birth of Jesus as well as the evolving mythology surrounding it:

One of these, however, came to eclipse all others, including the baptism, in the popular imagination, and drew its appeal from the proximity of the festival to Christmas; the adoration of the infant Christ by the Magi. In the original gospel story (of St. Matthew), they are described only as an unspecified number of wise men from the east, bringing gold, frankincense, and myrrh. By the sixth century, however, they had been combined with the figures of the three kings whom the Book of Psalms had predicted would come to honour the Messiah. (1996, p. 3)

In this example all three elements are present, the myth being that these two unrelated passages of the bible were now related, the ritual being the almost shamanistic ritual of traveling for spiritual renewal and understanding (Senn, 2002, pp. 124-125), and the language being the very nature of the combination of the two unrelated passages into a single nativity mythos. It is said that the giving of gifts during the Christmas season is seated in these spiritual offerings to Christ, yet this as well as the suspect time, location and events of Christ's birth are all parts of a construct of the nativity scene which most people today accept as literal history.

In one major respect the accounts contradict each other (that of how he comes to be born in the expected birthplace of the Redeemer at Bethlehem), while two other aspects of them, the Roman census and the Massacre of the Innocents, are historically implausible. The tales make sense, however, on a mythological level, not merely as confirmations of specifically Hebrew prophecy, but as archetypal representations of the birth of a hero, at the junction of many worlds: engendered partly human and partly divine, coming into life at a place neither a house nor the open air, belonging partly to humans and partly to animals, and in a strange land, and adored by people living upon the margins of society. Furthermore it is patently clear that the New Testament provides not the slightest indication of the date at which Christ was born! Early Christian tradition preserved no knowledge of one, and different writers made different guesses, most preferring dates in the spring.' The first absolutely certain record which places it upon 25 December is the calendar of PhiIocalus, produced in 354 and apparently at Rome. From there it seems to have spread to Constantinople, Antioch, and Bethlehem by the end of the century, although it is not recorded at Jerusalem for almost two hundred more years and was never recognized by the Armenian Church." The reason for the choice of this date, and the success of it, was stated with admirable candour by a Christian writer, the Scriptor Syrus, in the late fourth century:

It was a custom of the pagans to celebrate on the same 25 December the birthday of the Sun, at which they kindled lights in token of festivity. In these solemnities and revelries the Christians also took part. Accordingly when the doctors of the Church perceived that the Christians had a leaning to this festival, they took counsel and resolved that the true Nativity should be solemnized on that day.' (Hutton, 1996, p. 1)

Here we must briefly return back to the beginning of the work in our minds, as this whole section of the text, as well as several others not quoted here clearly indicate that there were attempts throughout the history of the evolution of Christmas to change the cultural artifacts of the holy day to better represent what each successive group of people wanted or needed them to be. (Higgins & McAllaster, 2004, p.64)

The prospect of codifying ritual and myth through language (Ibrahim, p. 127) is also something that has clearly taken place in the history of Christmas offered by Hutton. Over and over again an almost outsider, through rhetorical histories, relates to his own culture and therefore the conglomerate culture of the current western Christian tradition, a sense of what happens among other cultures, in this case surrounding the Christian myth and ritual. From these expressions of language Hutton has successfully pieced together a relatively comprehensive look at many of the factors that have evolved to create the myth of Christmas and especially the date, location and context of Christ's birth, which has all combined to represent the modern tale of the nativity. (Hutton, 1996, p. 8)

Venbrux, offers a modern interpretation of the phenomena of language being used to both codify and evolve myth and ritual. In his work Social Life and the Dreamtime: Clues to Creation Myths as Rhetorical Devices in Tiwi Mortuary Ritual, Venbrux describes a Tiwi (aboriginal Australian island culture) ritual process where old language (a traditional script) and new (novel songs for each occasion) combine to demonstrate a new representation of both the tradition of the creation and death rituals and the modern worries and context of the individuals involved. This anthropological example combines the whole of the Christmas evolution into a single evolving ritual event, and interestingly it is accepted and even expected for each ritual event to be unique and evolving. (2009, pp.464-476) This example is a prime example of how language both the old and the new is used to… [END OF PREVIEW] . . . READ MORE

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Relationship Between Ritual Language and Myth.  (2010, November 26).  Retrieved February 27, 2020, from

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"Relationship Between Ritual Language and Myth."  November 26, 2010.  Accessed February 27, 2020.