Thesis: Rituals Following Victor Turner, Who Frequently Invoked

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Rituals

Following Victor Turner, who frequently invoked of ritual, rites of affliction seek to mitigate the influence of spirits thought to be afflicting human beings with misfortune. Among the Ndembu, he found, if divination reveals that an individual has been "caught" by a spirit of the dead, an elaborate ritual is mounted to appease, and dismiss the troublesome spirit (Ohnuki-Tierney, 2004). For the Ndembu, such spirits are usually identified as those of the dead, who are blamed for problems in hunting, women's reproductive disorders, and various forms of illness. Although rituals of affliction similar to those of the Ndembu are found in many cultures, the category can be broadened to include other understandings of affliction, such as those one brings on oneself, like sin or karma, as well as those recurring afflictions, such as the pollution of menstruation, childbearing, and death, that are morally neutral but still require purification.

In continental archaeological research traditions dealing with "Frankish" graves, 'ritual' more often than not tends to be limited to some passive reflection of contemporary ideal images ('ideology') which function relatively independent of 'reality' (Aghaie, 2007). This view is however one-sided. The domain of rituals is the privileged arena in which the outlines of countless relationships are shaped; these relationships include those with the supernatural ancestors, spirits, gods, demons, saints (Waddy, 1999). Society is thus not to be reduced to the 'real', physical/visible world of the living; it comprises the supernatural as an active, constituent part of human life. These considerations are of importance for the analysis of material culture as presented in the graves of late Roman and early medieval northern Gaul. The sets of objects deposited in these con- texts are first and foremost part of undoubtedly complex funerary rituals of which the actual interment may have been only a small part. In view of the formalized appearance of at least part of the burial, the objects involved, and the long traditions surrounding many important graves or grave-fields, we may characterize the inhumation ritual with Maurice Godelier as one of the acts which (...) (experiment et condensent en eux une multitude d'aspects materiels et ideels des rapports des hommes tant entre eux qu'avec la nature. Ces sont des actes et des moments de la vie sociale charges, voir surcharges, et par la, en rapport (.rym- bolique' avec 1 ensemble de lorganisation sociale' (D'Agostino, 2001). In other words: the totality of the socio-cosmological order is involved. The burial ritual does not exclusively reflects situations of socio-economic practice, it is one of the moments in which man can actively intervene in the totality of social, natural and supernatural relationships. Thus, contrary to what continental archaeological traditions seem to postulate, the burial ritual is not just a passive reflection of social praxis or of a static societal structure or hierarchy, it is simultaneously a statement (an expression of ideas) and an act which affects society itself (D'Agostino, 2001). From this it follows that society is constantly redefined and renewed by the actions and thoughts of people. Instead of regarding a given society as a self-contained, static entity, we should accept it to be a rather multi-dimensional and dynamic network which, instead of a collection of separate groups, can best be described in terms of overlapping relationships. In the case of burial one cannot suppose a priori that all important relationships are touched upon or affected in just one ritual. The relations involved in this ritual might be different from those in others. It can however be accepted that many of these rituals or ritualized social events are related to and even dependent on each other. During each of them, aspects of the socio-cosmological order may be involved. This means that ritual activities are not isolated events, but form part of chains of rituals that in the case of burials are best described as life-cycle- or life-giving rituals (at birth, marriage, maturity, etc.) that are related. Therefore, particular ritual activities cannot be studied in isolation (Aghaie, 2007). This implies that a tournament of value like the burial ritual must be understood in relation to the comparable ritualized events mentioned above; they can even be analyzed in terms of each other. It is with this in mind that our concept of elite lifestyle can acquire deeper significance. Up to now, we have used it only as a descriptive tool in ordering the sheer variety and quantity of data. By doing this we have established a connecting link between phenomena that, due to the perseverance of the traditional division between Roman and medieval archaeology, more often than not are studied as more or less separate collections of data.

Beverley Raphael's Anatomy of Bereavesnent (1984), also subtitled a 'handbook for the caring professions', takes cultural issues and difference more seriously, but sidesteps the issue of whether these might offer a challenge to conventional wisdom by listing 'transcultural aspects' as the first of six 'explanatory models of bereavement,' thus separating these 'aspects' from psychodynamic aspects, attachment theory and cognitive and stress models, amongst others. After reviewing in this subsection a number of relevant studies, she concludes that 'while the rituals of different cultures and societies do not explain bereavement, they show its universality and also reflect the recognition of some of its basic processes' (Ohnuki-Tierney, 2004). In common with other authors (Waddy, 1999), Raphael also notes that 'many of the ceremonies and rituals of other cultures fit better with the emotional needs of the bereaved than do those of modern Western society'. Psychiatrist Colin Murray Parkes is one of the most influential writers in this field. Parkes' approach derives from that of John Bowlby (1973), owing much to attachment theory. Much of his early research was, how- ever, in partnership with sociologists. His work takes cultural variations seriously. Even in 1974, we find his co-authored study considering the question of cultural relativity, concluding that 'cultural emphases can produce somewhat different expressions of grief, even though the experience of grief is nearly universal' (Ohnuki-Tierney, 2004).

The authors do, how- ever, note a significant difference revealed by research on mourning in Japan: this concerns the 'sense of presence', which bereaved persons experience more frequently in that culture. This observation is a first indication of a more sustained contemporary critique of theoretical understandings (D'Agostino, 2001). More recently, Parkes is one of the co-editors of a volume looking particularly at issues of cultural variation (D'Agostino, 2001). Here we find the co-editors, including Parkes, uncomfortably aware that their exploration of these issues sits awkwardly with the psychological enterprise (1997: 6-7), but committed to opening up these issues in order to facilitate the delivery by practitioners of culturally sensitive responses. Although they argue that the search for meaning takes place within a cultural context that is deeply influential, the authors maintain that 'there may still be fundamental consistencies, themes and truths that appear in one culture after another' (Sanft, 2005). They back off dangerous ground by preferring 'to leave open the underlying nature of these phenomena' (p. 6). As Field, Hockey and Small comment about work in this vein: 'explanations are sought within the experiencing individual rather than in the social contexts and social relationships within which these experiences occur' (1997: 24), although these contexts may be seen to influence greatly the "ways in which experiences are expressed. In summary, then, bereavement has been considered by most leading authors to be 'a universal rather than culturally variable experience" (Sanft, 2005).

Walter has argued that within the recent 'revival' of death, two strands predominate: the late-modern experts who provide ever more refined advice and theories about dying, death and bereavement and a postmodern position that privileges the needs and wishes of the individual, whatever they may be (1994, 1996). In his view, we may now be managing loss outside any collective wisdom or set of practices, yet we remain social beings and, as the chapters to follow demonstrate, contemporary society is characterized by a diversity of shared rituals at the time of death (Sanft, 2005). Current variation in practice can be seen as the outcome of changes in Western death ritual, which have taken place during the twentieth century and a critical, historically located account of this period requires an examination of the social, economic and environmental shifts that have gathered momentum during this period. These include factors such as the secularization and diversification of religious belief and practice; social and geographical mobility; the growth of both consumerism and environment-Walter has argued that within the recent 'revival' of death, two strands predominate: the late-modern experts who provide ever more refined advice and theories about dying, death and bereavement and a postmodern position that privileges the needs and wishes of the individual, whatever they may be (1994, 1996). In his view, we may now be managing loss outside any collective wisdom or set of practices, yet we remain social beings and, as the chapters to follow demonstrate, contemporary society is characterized by a diversity of shared rituals at the time of death (Ohnuki-Tierney, 2004). Current variation… [END OF PREVIEW]

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