This bibliography takes an academic focus on the studies of ritual by
social anthropologists and the contemporary works they have influenced.
For this project, ritual is defined as "formalized, socially prescribed
symbolic behavior." (Robert H. Winthrop) The works provide a multi-
cultural, historical perspective of the study of rituals. In studying
rituals, the authors explore the meaning, function and significance of
ritual in hopes of understanding both human nature and the individual
Beginning with a reference section, this bibliography includes
seminal works by social anthropologists, a contemporary theoretical
section, as well as sections on works in the two main "non-religious"
areas of ritual: the rites of passage and ritual ceremonies. Some of the
works are academic, while others are more popular reading. The
combination of the works provide a broad view of ritual studies including
works published from 1909-1995 that emphasize various cultures and
Originally, I sought to find works on ritual and libraries. However
my findings led me to works of social anthropology, in particular, the
works of Arnold van Gennep and Victor Turner. The prevalence of these
two people and the intriguing theories they present led me to focus on
I began this project by thinking about ritual and its significance in
information transfer. My search for a narrower topic than "ritual and
information" involved browsing to see what was available. I started in
book stores by browsing any non-religious sections such as sociology,
business, education and psychology. Only one book in about one hundred
listed ritual in the index.
Next, I asked students, former students, professors and friends
about what they thought of when I mentioned ritual. At the same time, I
was searching the World Wide Wed, magazine databases and the databases
of the Denver Public Library, Auraria, University of Denver (DU), and the
University of Colorado (CU). My searches included key works such as
"ritual" with "information, libraries, community, knowledge,
communication and social aspects."
The article, "The Ritual of Information in Academic Libraries" was
one of my first findings. The article was perfect, but I found no other
works on ritual use of libraries, rituals within library structures or ritual
use of information. Looking at the bibliography of the article, I found both
Arnold van Gennep and Victor Turner listed. This was the first of several
such mentions of these two influential ritual theorists. Grazing the
stacks at the Denver Public Library, I found several works that listed
these two in their bibliographies, but neither book was available at the
public library. I found both works at DU along with several other useful
Still thinking of narrowing the topic and gearing it toward libraries,
I wrote to Nancy Thomas. She sent me a variety of names including Erving
Goffman. After looking at my options and interests, I decided to stick
with the van Gennep and Turner focus and thought of narrowing it to
initiation rites of puberty in various cultures. A visit to the Auraria
library lead me to books of graphic, gruesome stories of rites of passage
in various African tribes. I had difficulty getting through the material and
decided to stick with the theoretical nature of ritual study.
My subject was narrowed by my own interest and what others told
me was interesting to them about the subject. I decided to focus on works
of social anthropological study and grazed several key sections of the
library. If I ruled out a book, I would consult the bibliography for other
sources before returning it. Because of the intellectual nature of the
search, it took me a long time to get through some of the more esoteric
works. I even stumbled across books on ritual written by a former college
friend and philosophy professor. However, it was too esoteric to include
in my bibliography.
With new search words: "rites of passage, rites and ceremonies and
initiation," I found more contemporary works that reference van Gennep
and/or Turner. I searched the social science index, magazine index and
IAC looking for current articles and found nothing that fit the parameters
of the bibliography. I checked the World Wide Web and World Cat and found
little else. My main sources of information were from bibliographies in
books about ritual.
By grazing in chosen areas of the libraries, I would stumble on books
and choose materials that:
* focused on the rites of passage and ritual celebrations in a
* had a broad range of cultures represented in their studies of
*developed significant theories of the meaning and function of
This broad scope provided a perspective on the study of ritual over the
20th century mainly by anthropologists. I began this project knowing
little about the subject so a lot of my energy was used in understanding
the theories and abstracting them.
I learned a lot about myself by watching how I worked on this
project. I am the most stressed out when I cannot conceptualize the
project I am working on. I kept reading about ritual and thinking about the
kind of paper I could write. I wanted to consolidate and add my own
theory instead of accurately represent others. When I talked with others
about what I had found, they would come up with theories and paths of
study, too. Ultimately I had to rely on the limited material written about
ritual as the guide to this bibliography.
I learned a lot of searching resources as well. I work in a children's
library and have put together several bibliographies on children's books.
So I really felt that I challenged myself by doing this academic piece and
exploring several university libraries on-line and in person. I realize I
have a lot more to learn about search tool, but I am more adept after this
1. This bibliography includes many academic works and is designed for
the university student studying social anthropology, philosophy, sociology
or ritual studies.
2. This bibliography can be used by a librarian in an academic library. The
descriptions of each each of the books are designed to be detailed enough
for the librarian to get a clear understanding of the area of ritual studies
in social anthropology simply by reading the bibliography. The structure
includes a guide indicating the books appropriate for the academic and
those appropriate for the lay reader.
3. There are books included in the bibliography that are written for a
more general, popular audience. Thus, the bibliography can be useful to
library customers interested in dabbling in ritual studies, multi-cultural
issues or personal identity.
The bibliography is divided into five sections:
1. A reference section of surveys in social anthropological studies.
2. A section of seminal works listed.
3. A look at contemporary perspectives of ritual studies.
4. A section of works on rites of passage and initiations.
5. A section of works on ceremonial rituals.
The reference section is organized with the most current item first. The
rest of the bibliography is listed chronologically within each section.
This provides a historical perspective on the materials.
The works are chosen to form a broad range of ritual studies
including works published from 1908-1995 with emphasis on works with
various cultures represented in each book. The bibliography includes
works that fit into one or more of the following categories:
*Provides a historical, theoretical perspective of social
anthropological studies of ritual.
*Develops a theory of the function or meaning of ritual within
*Illustrates a wide range of rituals from a various cultures.
*Views rituals in terms of rites of passage (initiation or
celebration) as defined by Arnold van Gennep and Victor Turner (see
The works not chosen were those that focused on:
*the religious significance of rituals,
*the symbolic significance of rituals,
*the communicative significance of rituals,
*the mythological significance of rituals,
*the rebellion against imposed rituals or
*one specific culture or community.
A suggested reading list at the end of the bibliography provides sources
for exploring these other theoretical areas of ritual.
Many of the works stem from the theoretical notions of Arnold van
Gennep and Victor Turner. For this reason, I chose to provide a seminal
works section of the two most cited works of these men.
The section of contemporary studies in ritual includes the theory of
biological influence on rituals, pluralism and ritual and the need for ritual
in industrialized countries. The works have been chosen to provide a broad
multi-discipline view of ritual theories published within the last 25
This bibliography is largely based on van Gennep's theories of the
purpose of rituals. He wrote that rituals are important in providing
humans with sacred connections during turbulent times of passage in their
lives. The stress or "life-crisis" of moving from one stage to the next,
either individually as from childhood to adolescence or collectively as
with the changing of the seasons, is lessened by the ritualistic process
assigned to that passage. These notions of rites of passage and
celebrations are addressed by the works in the final two sections.
Each work is listed with the following information:
*an authority, including author notes when available,
*the reason I chose to put it in the bibliography (how it fits),
*a description of the work (content and structure),
*and a brief suggestion of the appropriate reader for the book.
Along with this is a symbol marking the relative difficulty or
accessibility of the work.
( = a popular work for a general audience.
( = somewhat theoretical and academic in nature yet of interest to
( = an academic work designed for the scholar of social
In searching for reviews of these books, I looked in Book Review Index,
Book Review Digest and First Search. I did not find any.
Bibliography of Social Anthropological Theories
of Ritual Meaning and Function
Winthrop, Robert H.
1991. Dictionary of Concepts in Cultural Anthropology, p. 242-255.
Westport, CT: Greenwood Press.
( This is a reference guide for students of social anthropology. I
selected it for this project because it has concise definitions, a general
overview of the field and a guide to finding more information on specific
theorists and works.
The definitions include sections on ritual and rites of passage. Each
section includes clear, concise definitions, a historical perspective, and
bibliographic information on the fields of study. The ritual section
includes definitions from various theories of study including
functionalism, phenomenology, and symbolic, performance study.
Doty, William G.
1986. Mythography: The Study of Myths and Rituals. Alabama: University
of Alabama Press.
( This is an excellent reference tool for researching the study of
myths and rituals. For the sections on ritual, the historical perspective
on social anthropological work on ritual, and the bibliographic resources,
I am including it in the bibliography.
Mythography provides analysis and descriptions of modern academic
approaches to myths and rituals. The author includes a historical survey
of the study of myths and rituals. This is intended to be a multi-
disciplinary survey of works in the English language on myths and rituals.
The main objects are to understand the study of ritual and myth by looking
at the social context, psychological aspects, literary/performative
aspects, structural aspects and other interpretive matters. The author
summarizes the works of Victor Turner, provides a bibliography of studies
of ritual and lists bibliographies of ritual studies.
The book is structured with the historical perspective in a primarily
chronological order. Bibliographic resources are included at the end of
each section as well as at the end of the book. There are extensive lists
of bibliographic resources and recommendations, references, notes, and
author and subject indexes.
Grimes, Ronald L.
1982. Beginnings in Ritual Studies. Washington, DC: University Press of
( This book is included as a reference tool because of its summary of
the theories of ritual, in particular the works of Victor Turner.
Ronald L. Grimes is one of the current scholars in "ritual studies."
His works attempt to bring together the various aspects of ritual studies
in anthropology, religious studies and others to come to an understanding
of the meanings of rituals. His view of ritual includes the idea that the
people and animals in ritual both enact and embody meaning in that
The author takes a wide look at ritual studies to pull together
multiple points of view. In a series of fifteen essays, Grimes examines
the concept of ritual from various perspectives including ritual space,
objects, time, sound and language and the identity of actors and actions.
He discusses the field of ritual studies, Ritual processes and theories of
ritual and ritual and theater.
The work has extensive notes, a bibliography and index. I found the text
some what poorly written but the summary of Victor Turner makes it
worth listing in this bibliography.
Gennep, Arnold van.
1960. Rites of Passage. (Trans. by Monika B. Vizedom and Gabrielle L.
Caffee.) Chicago: University of Chicago Press.
( This book was chosen for this project because of it's profound
impact on the study of ritual in the Twentieth Century. It is a seminal
work in ritual and the author's ideas are expanded upon by many other
selections included in this bibliography. Originally written in French in
1908, the translation has broadened the author's theories to other fields
of study over the last 35 years.
Arnold van Gennep (1873-1957) was the first anthropologist to note
the regularity and significance of the rituals attached to the transitional
stages in the life of humans, and his phrase for these, "the rites of
passage," has become a part of the language of anthropology and sociology.
His book, Rites of Passage not only changed the way anthropologists
thought of ritual, but has worked its way into popular cultural beliefs and
language. Several of the titles included in this bibliography cite van
Gennep's Rites of Passage.
In the book, Van Gennep states that rites, studied and analyzed in the
larger setting of the cultures they pertained to, could illuminate our
knowledge of the culture as well as provide understanding of more general
processes of cultural evolution. Birth, puberty, marriage, and death are, in
all cultures, marked by ceremonies which may differ in detail but are
universal in function. Each transition, or "life-crisis" includes
ceremonies of "the rites of passage." Van Gennep's distinguished three
major phases within the process of the "life crisis" transition: separation
(separation), transition (marge), and incorporation (agregation). His theory
is that rituals serve as a means of passing gently through the crisis of
separation from the old, transition and the incorporation of the next
passage of life. Van Gennep includes examples from Africa, India,
Australia, the Polynesia, Native American tribes and others in his
description of the rites of passage in various cultures. Community
passages such as the change of seasons are included along with the
individual transitions such as those mentioned above.
When it was originally published in 1908, it was more respected for
it's extensive footnotes and references to other studies of cultures. The
translation includes an introduction that addresses the major thoughts of
the time of the author, as well as the impact of the work. The translators
provide information on the translation process including detailed
description of footnote updates.
The book is academic in spirit yet written in a clear, readable way.
It would be excellent for a graduate level student seeking background on
rituals and their meanings. It is important to note that many of the
examples of "primitive" cultures are no longer accurate so the content
needs to be viewed from a historical perspective.
1969. The Ritual Process: Structure and Anti-Structure. Chicago: Aldine
( This is seminal work in the field of ritual study in social
anthropology. Turner's influence on the study of ritual is great and is
cited more often in works than any other I have seen. I chose to include
this particular book because of the theories of ritual and their impact on
Victor Turner is the chief theorist in recent times to emphasize the
transformative role that rituals play in societies. One of the most
prolific writers in the field of ritual studies in social anthropology, his
works include theories that extend van Gennep's rites of passage, theories
of ritual performance and ceremony. His ideas have influenced academic
study of ritual in several disciplines.
The Ritual Process describes Turner's findings and developed
theories while doing fieldwork for two and a half years with the Ndembu
tribe of Northwestern Zambia. As a social anthropologist, he studied
ritual to discover meaning. In his introduction, Turner quotes Monica
Wilson (1954) to explain the purpose of studying ritual.
"Rituals reveal values at their deepest level...men express in ritual
them most, and since the form of expressions is conventionalized
it is the values of the group that are revealed. I see in the study of
the way to an understanding of the essential constitution of human
societies." p. 241
He expands van Gennep's theories of the ritual process of separation,
transition and incorporation. Turner uses the study of tribal rituals to
examine the transition or "liminal" period of passage and the spontaneous
development of "communitas" or specific communities of commonality
The Ritual Process consists of five chapters, an index and
bibliography. Though the language and stories are clear, concise and
interesting. Yet, the book is primarily theoretical. It is fascinating in its
search for meaning.
Contemporary Theories of Ritual
Fontaine, J. S. La, Editor.
1972. The Interpretation of Ritual: Essays in Honour of A.I. Richards.
London, England: Tavistock Publications Limited.
( This book was chosen for the bibliography for it's scholarly works on
ritual and the varied examples of cultures and rituals. It also provides a
historical perspective on anthropological studies of ritual in Europe.
Audrey Richard's principle works spanned over 30 years, from 1932-
1969. One of the first female social anthropologists working in Africa,
she was a prolific writer of articles on ritual. The contributors to this
collection are all social anthropologists who have been influenced by her
The eleven essays in this volume reference Chisungu, a study of
girls' initiation ritual among the Bemba (Richards, 1956). The essays
include the ritual of greeting, wedding rituals and the process of changing
rituals to include other cultural beliefs. The essays include studies of
several African nations, as well as conventional European rituals. The
works are academic and provide quite a lot of information on various
The Book consists of an introduction explaining the works and
influence of A.I. Richards, end notes and references at the end of each
essay, a bibliography of A. I. Richards' principal works and an index.
d'Aquili, Eugene G., Charles D. Laughlin, Jr., John McManus with Tom Burns,
Barbara Lex, G. Ronald Murphy, S.J., and W. John Smith.
1979. The Spectrum of Ritual: A Biogenetic Structural Analysis. New
York: Columbia University Press.
( This book was chosen for this bibliography because of the biological
theories of ritual. It provides a multi-disciplinary, biological perspective
that is not often found in ritual studies.
The authors of this book are professors of various disciplines
working together to advance their theories of biological and evolutionary
perspectives in anthropological studies.
This multi-disciplinary work addresses the principles underlying
ritual from a biological and evolutionary perspective. The biogenetic
structural theory of human ritual behavior, they claim, accounts for
several aspects of ritual including:
*The full range of ritual behavior in humans.
*The universality of ritual behavior among human societies.
*Certain universal functions of ritual behavior among human
*Several links between individual neurophysiological and cognitive
systems and ritual behavior at the social level.
*The systematic principles underlying ritual behavior in humans and
The authors explore, explain and elaborate on the aspects of ritual
behavior to understand the origin and function of rituals in human society.
The first and last chapters extend the theory and present the formal
methodology of biogenetic structuralism in general. Chapters two-ten
apply the methodology in the analysis of ritual behavior. Students of
ritual would be most interested in the middle section, beginning with a
general discussion of the animal kingdom and ending with a specific
human ceremonial ritual, the Roman Mass. Topics cover ritual behavior in
communication in organic systems, the operation of rituals among higher
mammals and human rituals of myth, social functions, individual rites of
passage, ceremonies and functions to express/relieve economic stress.
The book has an extensive author and subject indexes with
bibliographies at the end of each chapter. It is for the academic.
Grimes, Ron, Editor.
Winter, 1987-Summer 1993. Journal of Ritual Studies. Pittsburgh, PA:
University of Pittsburgh, Department of Religious Studies.
( This scholarly journal is an important addition to this bibliography
because it provides works on ritual from a variety of perspectives. It has
a somewhat more spontaneous quality than books.
The editor of the journal has written extensively on study of ritual
and has a wide interest beyond the religious significance of ritual. He is
of a school of theory that claims to have coined the phrase "ritual
The Journal of Ritual Studies publishes scholarly research on ritual.
Contributors represent various disciplines including religious studies,
anthropology, sociology, psychology, performance studies, history,
philosophy, art, music, dance and education. The primary purpose of this
publication is to encourage collaboration among scholars from these and
other disciplines on the topic of ritual and its allied subtopics. Articles
vary from the theoretical to the descriptive. A wide range of aspects of
ritual are considered. This is a valuable resource for ritual study.
Each issue includes articles, book reviews and a reader's forum. The
articles vary from the esoteric to the easily understood. This would
provide the beginning student with a varied perspective of ritual studies.
Coppet, Daniel de.
1992. Understanding Rituals. New York: Routledge, Chapman and Hall Inc.
( This book is included in the bibliography because it provides a
contemporary European perspective on ritual studies in anthropology. The
list of contributors also assists in following some of the current European
researchers in the field.
This volume contains the six contributions prepared for the panel
"Understanding ritual," which met at Coimbra on September 2, 1990. This
panel was part of the first conference on the European Association of
Social Anthropologists. These social anthropologists seek to redefine old
notions of ritual and incorporate the works of other fields of discipline.
The editor has included a biographical list of contributors and name
and subject indexes. Each work has extensive notes and a bibliography.
Because of the theoretical base needed to comprehend this book, it is best
served to the advanced student in rituals studies in social anthropology.
Driver, Tom F.
1991. The Magic of Ritual: Our Need for Liberating Rites that Transform
Our Lives and Our Communities. New York: HarperCollins Publishers.
( This book is included in the bibliography because of the variety of
cultures represented as well as the contemporary theory of the need for
ritual in the United States.
Driver expresses a need for ritual in our society. By describing
ceremonies from Haiti, Papua New Guinea, Japan, Turkey, Korea and other
Drive approaches ritual as performance. He defines performance as an
has unique effectiveness and often expresses more than words can.
contends, are necessary for cohesion and transformation of cultures and
societies, in that rituals make and maintain order, deepen and strengthen
communal bonds and allow for personal and social transformation. To be
fully alive, Driver contends, humans must engage creatively in ritual
performance including Rites of Passage, ceremonies to heal, grief and
celebrate and political performances aimed at changing society.
This book is based heavily on the works of Victor Turner and has a
religious tone. It is accessible to any adult interested in ritual. It is not
as academic as most on the list.
Some, Malidoma Patrice.
1993. Ritual: Power, Healing and Community. Portland, OR: Swan, Raven
( This book is chosen because it is written by an African about his
rituals and culture. It is common to find many books on rituals of African
tribes but rare to find one written by someone of that culture. The work
is autobiographical and philosophical. The personal approach make it more
readable and less academic than many other works on this bibliography.
Malidoma Some was raised in a village in Burkina Faso, West Africa.
He is initiated in the ancestral tribal traditions, and is a medicine man
and diviner in the Dagara culture. He holds three master's degrees and two
Ph.D. degrees from the Sorbonne and Brandeis University. He has taught at
the University of Michigan and lectures on the need for ritual in America.
This book includes autobiographical stories of the author's youth in
the West African village of Burkina Faso. He compares the ritual and
sacred ceremonies of his youth with those of the western world. He
describes the western world as being run by an "energy draining machine."
He offers lessons in ancient ritual as a way for westerners to reconnect
with their true selves. He also theorizes about the dimensions of ritual:
community rituals, family rituals and individual rituals. He notes that
these areas of ritual are interconnected in that they impact and influence
each other. Some talks of ritual spaces, the sacred nature of ritual, and
the presupposition of a purpose or goal necessary for the ritual. Another
idea he sets forth is that "a community that doesn't have a ritual cannot
exist. A corporate community is not a community. It's a conglomeration
of individuals in the service of an insatiable soulless entity."
This work is very accessible to the non-scholar interested in
theories of ritual from an African perspective. It has a singular
perspective and is designed for those seeking spiritual meaning in their
Platvoet, Jan and Karel Van Der Toorn, Editors.
1995. Pluralism and Identity: Studies in Ritual Behaviour. Leiden, The
Netherlands: E.J. Brill.
( This work puts ritual studies into a practical context. The
understanding of rituals and how rituals develop and co-exist in a plural
society is salient because of the many religious tensions in the world.
The idea of pluralist societies is gaining more ground academically in our
The editors have compiled papers presented at an international
conference in Leiden University on January 14-15, 1995. Except for Prof.
Joseph Sadan, of Tel Aviv University and Prof. Andre Droogers, of the Free
University at Amsterdam, all the presenters were members of an inter-
university research group, based in Leiden since 1992. It was established
in order to study the role of religions in situations of religious pluralism.
The contributors study ritual in religions and the response one community
has to another's rituals and beliefs. The studies focus on establishing in
what manner religions respond to the presence of other religions in the
societies, in ancient as well as in modern times. There are three sections
to this work. The first section is mainly theoretical in nature on ritual
theory, on conditions under which a group feels strong, weak or no need to
demarcate itself from other groups and on a model for the study of
interaction among religions in a plural society. The second section
includes three descriptive essays dealing, wholly or in part, with the
ritualization of the encounter between religions. The third section
contains five papers that deal with process of internal change in religions
in response to the situation of religious plurality, internal and external.
One focuses on an ancient Israelite religion; the other four are
The book contains 14 papers, an introduction, subject and author
indexes and bibliography of recent works on the subject. Each paper has
extensive notes and a bibliography. This book is best suited for the
scholar in ritual and religion.
Initiation/Rites of Passage
(Arnold van Gennep.
1960. Rites of Passage. (Trans. by Monika B. Vizedom and Gabrielle L.
Caffee.) Chicago: University of Chicago Press.
1958. Rites and Symbols of Initiation: The Mysteries of Birth and Rebirth.
New York: Harper and Brothers.
( This book has been very influential in current studies of rites of
passage in the United States. Along with van Gennep and Turner, Eliade's
works are cited frequently in current works of initiation.
The author, a French social anthropologist, based this book on the
Haskell Lectures delivered at the University of Chicago in 1956.
Analyzing initiation in primitive cultures, Eliade argues that these
societies understand puberty rites and various specialized initiations in
terms of supernatural or transcendent models revealed to them by their
mythical ancestors or by supernatural beings. The basic initiation
symbolism is one of death and rebirth or resurrection, the necessity of
dying to the old in order to
be born to the new. In the various initiations, traditional religious
societies believe that they are recapturing their sacred history and are
being spiritually regenerated. Eliade states that "initiation lies at the
core of any genuine human life" and that "in the modern Western world
significant initiation is practically nonexistent." The author suggests
that the "modern" human
beings, without the traditional rites and symbols of initiation, cannot deal
adequately with their existential crisis.
This academic work is for the ritual scholar. I was not able to
obtain an English copy of the text for further analysis.
1969. The Ritual Process: Structure and Anti-Structure. Chicago: Aldine
Fried, Martha Nemes and Morton H. Fried.
1980. Transitions: Four Rituals in Eight Cultures. New York: Norton &
( This book is included in the bibliography because of the various
cultures represented within the context of rites of passage. It is a
The authors have lived and studied social anthropology in a variety
of cultures and have a familiar approach to the cultures.
Drawing upon van Gennep's Rites of Passage, this book looks at four
transitions: birth, puberty, marriage and death and the rituals of these
transitions in eight cultures. The rituals are framed in a larger context of
the individual's life and are fascinating to read. The five primary cultures
described are: the nomadic !Kung of south and southwest Africa, the
Muslim Hausa of present day Nigeria, the Tlingit Native American tribe
living on the southern Alaska coast, the Tikopia tribe living on one of the
western most islands of Polynesia and the Taiwanese. In addition, the
authors include information from three "socialist" countries: Cuba, China
and the (then) Soviet Union.
* See Seminal Works section.
The authors include extensive notes, a bibliography and index. This is an
academic text but may also appeal to the casual student of ritual.
Carus Mahdi, Louise, Steven Foster and Meredith Little, Editors.
1987. Betwixt and Between: Patterns of Masculine and Feminine
La Salle, IL: Open Court.
( This book is included in the bibliography because it is an accessible
study of the anthropological theories of the rites of passage combined
with the contemporary common initiation rituals in a variety of societies,
including the United States.
The introduction, by Victor Turner, summarizes van Gennep's theory
of the rites of passage and sets the reader on a clear course for
understanding the essays.
This work is a collection of essays on the passages of life and the
importance of ritual. The contributors use the term initiation to describe
a times of transition in a person's life. The essays include work on the
initiation of youth in puberty including curriculum changes to include
vision quest initiation activities. Sections on male and female initiation
are included as well as personal initiation, and the initiation of old age
and dying. A final section includes works on the comparison of initiations
today with those of ancient times. The works are about various cultures
and from various perspectives including the initiation process of Huck
Finn, a Vietnamese Buddhist Nun and the use of dream interpretation in
ritual initiation processes. The editors chose an interdisciplinary
approach to show the importance of initiation rituals for both the
individual and the society.
This book includes introductory notes on each essay and it's author.
It is quite accessible to anyone interested in ritual and initiation.
Ritual and Celebrations
Deegan, Mary Jo.
1980. American Ritual Dramas: Social Rules and Cultural Meanings.
Westport, CN: Greenwood Press.
( This book is included in the bibliography for its perspective on
modern American cultural rituals.
The author, at the time of writing, was an Associate Professor of
Sociology at the University of Nebraska-Lincoln. Her interests include
women in sociology and ritual and play.
The process of everyday life is examine as a living process created
through our use of a complex web of social rules and cultural meanings.
The book explores the social construction of American life by analyzing
community rules for ritual celebration. Through the use of the dramatic
metaphor, often used in ritual analysis, the book examine the roles
Americans play, the language used and the rules followed when they are
having fun. Critical inquiry into the social rituals of "fun" and "good
times" reveals that they are paradoxically liberating and restrictive at
the same time. The author uses data of singles bars, sporting events,
television and movies to explicate the points of structural weakness in
our present ritual patterns. She believes that by understanding these
rituals, Americans may re-create their rituals and discover alternative
patterns to generate far greater community playfulness and meaning than
is enjoyed now.
This book is based heavily on the works of Erving Goffman and Victor
It includes a bibliography and index. I recommended it for the beginning
student in sociology or ritual interested in the American or play aspects
Turner, Victor, Editor.
1982. Celebration: Studies in Festivity and Ritual. Washington, DC:
Smithsonian Institute Press.
( The work is included, along with another about a Smithsonian
exhibit, to display the contemporary perspective of ritual studies and how
they are represented to the larger public.
Victor Turner, the major contemporary ritual theorist of the time
complied this collection of essays based on the celebratory objects of the
The essays were written to complement the exhibit of beautiful
ritual objects on display, Yet, the works stand alone. The Smithsonian
staff contend that ceremonial objects reflect ceremonies and people who
enacted the ritual ceremonies. There are five sections in the book.
*Material components of celebration and description of those
*Description of Rites of passage from various cultures.
*Descriptions of language of festivals. celebrating the seasons and
*Descriptions of religious ceremonies.
*Descriptions of sociation and sociability of political celebrations.
These essays are expansive including cultures throughout the world and in
the United States.
There is a forward by the Smithsonian staff, and introduction by
Turner and bibliographic information at the end of each paper. An index is
included. This book is recommend for anyone interested in anthropology
and ritual. It has a wide appeal.
Office of Folklife Programs and the Renwick Gallery of the National
Museum of American Art.
1982. Celebration: A World of Art and Ritual. Washington, DC:
Smithsonian Institution Press.
( This book is included in the ritual bibliography because it represents
contemporary perspectives of ritual in ceremony with beautiful
photographs and easily accessible notations.
This is a companion piece to the above or can be viewed alone. It is
a fascinating look at ritual and ritual objects owned by the Smithsonian
Institute. Large black and white photographs of the exhibit pieces are
accompanied by detailed descriptions of the pieces. The objects span
many cultures and generations including modern American ritual objects.
The oversized book includes a foreword, a section about the exhibit,
an introduction by Victor Turner, a section of colorplates and a catalogue
of the exhibition. There is no index or bibliography. This is recommended
to anyone interested in ritual objects, art and anthropology.
Frese, Pamela R., Editor.
1993. Celebrations of Identity: Multiple Voices in American Ritual
Performances. Westport, CT: Bergin and Garvey.
( This work is included in the bibliography because it represents
anthropologists looking at American rituals from a multi-cultural
Celebrations of Identity is a collection of contemporary essays on
American rituals. The editor challenges the traditional social
anthropological practice of studying "primitive" cultures to discover
ritual meaning. She contends that that approach leads to a dominant,
superior European perspective. The editor seeks to represent a variety of
ethnic groups and activities in order to redefine ritual as a way an
individual finds identity within the community. Essays include: rituals of
the Inupiat Indians of Alaska, the building of identity through ethnic
festivals, a look at Protestant beliefs and rituals in the American south,
rituals of testifying in the Black church, Powwows of the Waccamaw
Sioux and the inauguration of the president of the United States.
The book includes an introduction, index and bibliographies at the
end of each paper. It is academic yet interesting to the non-academic
student. It is recommended for those seeking a multi-cultural perspective
of American ritual.
1994. Carnival of the Spirit: Seasonal Celebrations and Rites of Passage.
New York: HarperCollins Publishers.
( Although this is more popular storytelling than academic study, this
book is included in this bibliography because of the wide range of cultures
and rites it explores. It remains in the spirit of the above works on ritual
An African-American storyteller explores world holidays and
celebrations of the change of seasons. Her book covers a many cultures
and activities including the Lily Festival in Japan, the Yam Festival in
West Africa, Marti Gras in New Orleans, traditional European holidays and
sacred African rituals. The focus of this book is to explore the daily use
of ritual to celebrate nature, community and life. The author uses a
personal, storytelling approach.
I would recommend this book as an introduction to the non-scholarly
reader. The storytelling approach appeals to a general readership.
Amberston, Celu (Cornwoman).
1995. Deepening the Power: Community Ritual and Sacred Theatre.
Victoria, BC: Beach Holme Publishing Limited.
( This book, on the surface, appears to be another self-help, new age
book. However, the author, a student of anthropology, represents both the
Native American and Celtic cultures in her study of ritual. I am including
it in the bibliography because of the author's unique training as well as
the detailed plan for conducting ritual celebrations and sacred theater.
This is also the only representation on the bibliography of Pagan rituals.
Of Cherokee and Celtic descent, the author is an experienced
ceremonialist and combines Wicca and Native shamanism in her work. Her
background in anthropological studies adds some validity to her theories
The author, a "teacher and practicing Pagan ceremonialist" provides
a detailed plan for conducting ritual celebrations and sacred theater
within a community. Beginning with a loosely structured section on the
meaning and power of ancient Pagan rituals, the author explains the
relevance of these rituals for the present day. The second section
includes detailed descriptions of the seven steps of the Pagan ceremonial
rituals. The third section deals primarily with sacred theater and
includes short plays for male and female rites of passage ceremonies.
This work is a blend of practical instruction on Pagan ceremonies to
attain greater spiritual fulfillment in our society.
This book is designed, not for the scholar, but for those interested in
creating ritual ceremonies of their own. It's focus on Pagan rituals also
makes it a work for those interested in Pagan worship.
Gutierrez, Roman A. and Genevieve Fabre, Editors.
1995. Feasts and Celebrations in North American Ethnic Communities.
Albuquerque, NM: University of New Mexico Press.
( This work is included in the bibliography because it is a scholarly
study of North American ritual celebrations of various ethnic groups.
Originally a symposium of the same name was presented at the
University of Paris in 1989. This book includes selections from the
conference and is an interdisciplinary approach that examines rituals of
African Americans, Haitians, Cubans, West Indians, Mexican Americans,
Chicanos, Filipinos, Puerto Ricans, Cambodians, Laotians, Asian
Americans, and Angle Americans living primarily in the United States.
The book is organized into three sections, each focusing on various
aspects of the relationships between celebrations and ethnic communities
in the United States. The first section, "Colonialism and Festival: The Art
of Resistance," examines a set of rituals and celebrations initially
introduced into what is now the United States during colonial times. The
second section explores "Rituals of Renewal and Return." By traveling to a
distant sacred site, by cooking special foods associated with a particular
deity or saint, or by enacting ritual performances precisely, the sacred is
conjured. In this way, the individual is rejuvenated and restores his place
in the community. The final section of the anthology, "Celebrations and
the Creation of Identities," illustrates celebrations of cultural
identification, ethnic, national and pan-ethnic. Focus is on a multi-
cultural perspective in order to understand some of the lesser known
ceremonies and rituals of ethnic communities.
The book has a list of contributors with biographical information, an
index and notes and references at the end of each essay. It is a
fascinating perspective on the ethnic history of celebrations and festival.
I would recommend it to those studying ritual as well as those interested
in multi-cultural studies in North America.
Suggested reading in other areas of the study of ritual
1972, Myths to Live By. New York: Bantam Books.
( Theories of ritual in myths.
1915. The Elementary Forms of the Religious Life. Tran. J.W. Swain. 1956.
Glencoe, IL: Free Press.
( A seminal work in the field of the religious studies of symbolism
1967. Interaction Ritual: Essays on Face-to-Face Behavior. Chicago:
Aldine Publication Company.
( A seminal work on communication as ritual performance.
1960 (1967). The Scope of Anthropology. Sherry Ortner Paul and Robert
Paul, trans. London, England: Jonathan Cape.
( The leading structuralist in ritual studies synthesizes the field of
ritual and symbolism.
Summer 1994. "Academic Libraries and the Rituals of Knowledge." RQ 33,
no.4, p. 496-508.
( A look at ritual in the context of academic libraries with attention
to the theories of Arnold van Gennep and Victor Turner.