What distinguishes western culture

The relevance of rituals in western cultures using the example of healing rituals

Table of Contents

List of figures

List of abbreviations

1 Introduction
1.1 Structure

2 Definitions
2.1 Ritual or rite
2.2 Limitation of the term "western culture"
2.2.1 Culture
2.2.2 Western world or western culture

3 The relevance of rituals in western societies
3.1 Rituals in complex societies
3.1.1 The relevance of medical rituals in the western world
3.1.1.1 Problems of integrating shamanic healing culture into Western forms of therapy

4 Conclusion

5 Bibliography

Books

Internet

List of figures

Figure 1: Shaman

List of abbreviations

Figure not included in this excerpt

1 Introduction

The present work deals with the relevance of rituals in western cultures, using the example of the importance of healing rituals in these cultures.

“The longing for fixed rites is a basic need of all people in all cultures. Rituals accompanied our ancestors through the day and through the year. Fortunately, nothing has changed about that. And so, even today, rituals bring us in connection with our family and cultural roots. "[1]

Whether rituals are really still so present in the western world and whether they continue to serve to preserve them within modern societies is highlighted in the context of this work.

1.1 Structure

The work is structured in four chapters. The following chapter deals with the explanations of terms and definitions, as well as the historical and regional delimitation of the topic. The third chapter contains the distinction between western and non-western rituals. Essentially, it is about the relevance of healing rituals in Western societies and, using the example of the integration of shamanic healing rituals, shows whether the adoption of foreign rituals in Western society is a way of remedying the lack of rites in Western medicine. A final conclusion is given in the last chapter.

2 Definitions

In order to provide a meaningful insight into the topic, some basic terms that are necessary for understanding are explained first.

2.1 Ritual or rite

There are countless different approaches to defining the subject of "ritual" or "rite" in the specialist literature. The following basic definitions of the term rite were developed.

The rite as:

- Formal and prescribed behavior of a non-technological nature.
- expressive and symbolic behavior.
- a communicative aspect of behavior, as a dimension of social life, as well as any activity that expresses a person's status. However, this definition has only a marginal meaning.
- expressive and obligatory phenomenon that is not only social, but also a spiritual experience of its own.[2]

In the following, some of the above. Approaches discussed in more detail.

Heretic, for example, understands a ritual as symbolic, standardized action that is characterized by the following three properties:

1. Symbols combine a multitude of meanings, which however do not contradict each other. As a result, they cannot be precisely grasped and a clear interpretation becomes impossible.
2. Symbols are polyphonic (multivocal[3]), i.e. different observers can understand something different about the same situation. The consequence of this is that consensus is not always needed to bring people together.
3. Rituals condense meanings, i.e. they not only stand for several things or properties at the same time, but the plurality of meanings also interact in the head of the respective viewer and thus become powerful.[4]

Based on the starting point of ethnological ritual theories, the work "Les rites de passage" by Arnold van Gennep from 1909, rituals are usually incorporated into a so-called three-phase model.[5]

"On the basis of extensive literature studies, van Gennep comes to the conclusion that transitions (passages) are an important problem in all human societies."[6]

On the one hand, the so-called transition can be understood spatially. Then it means, for example, the transition from one place to another or from a sacred area to a profane one. On the other hand, van Gennep also understands social change as transition, i.e. when people move from one socially defined status to another and their social position changes as a result. As an example, he cites the transition from an adolescent to an adult or the process when a layman becomes a priest or a shaman[7] becomes. The mentioned shamanism will be discussed in more detail in the third chapter.

In such situations, the normally established social order is changed - in order to prevent an exceptional situation, such transitions are accompanied by rituals in almost every society. Their function is to restore the briefly broken borders and to consolidate new structure. According to van Gennep, these rites of passage can be divided into three stages or phases worldwide.

1. Separation: In the first phase, the previous status is separated.
2. Transition: The second phase describes a so-called threshold or transformation phase, in which the person concerned is in a state of limbo between the old and the new status.
3. Incorporation: The final phase is seen as the reintegration phase, in which the person assumes their new rights and obligations associated with the newly acquired status.[8][9]

[...]



[1] NUTBAUM, Margret: The most beautiful family rituals - 11 rituals throughout the year, Christopherus in Verlag Herder, Freiburg im Breisgau, 2005, p. 8.

[2] See HALLER, Dieter: dtv atlas ethnology, Deutscher Taschenbuchverlag GmbH & Co. KG, Munich, 2005, p. 249.

[3] Cf. HELMAN, Cecil: Culture, Health and Illness, 2001, p. 157.

[4] See FISCHER, Hans / BEER, Bettina (eds.): Ethnology - Introduction and Overview (New version), Dietrich Reimer Verlag, Berlin, 2003, p. 168f.

[5] Cf. HELMAN, Cecil: Culture, Health and Illness, 2001, p. 160 ff.

[6] FISCHER, Hans / BEER, Bettina (ed.): Ethnology - Introduction and Overview (New version), Dietrich Reimer Verlag, Berlin, 2003, p. 215.

[7] See HALLER, Dieter: dtv atlas ethnology, Deutscher Taschenbuchverlag GmbH & Co. KG, Munich, 2005, p. 236f.

[8] Cf. FISCHER, Hans / BEER, Bettina (eds.): Ethnology - Introduction and Overview (New version), Dietrich Reimer Verlag, Berlin, 2003, p. 215.

[9] See HELMAN, Cecil: Culture, Health and Illness, 2001, p. 160 ff.

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