Ceremonies have so much been embedded in our society that the performance of it is deemed normative and ordinary. In fact, the non-celebration of it invites criticism and perhaps violent reactions. In the academic field as well, especially in the fields of anthropology, theological studies, and other social sciences, the subject of ritual is a highly studied area…
Accordingly, “ritual is a style of action, one that is formal, stylized, prescribed, symbolic, non-technological, repetitive, traditional, and so on”. Further, it is also a “culturally constructed system of symbolic communication. It is constituted of patterned and ordered sequences of words and acts, often expressed in multiple media, whose content and arrangement are characterized in varying degree by formality, stereotype, condensations, and redundancy” (Tambiah, 1979:119). Using the above definition, we can surmise that there is a particular relationship between rites and symbols in relation to culture and values. Hence, to fully grasp the essence of a ritual, it is best to deconstruct its components in order to assign a meaning to it. To put into perspective, the term “ritual” itself must be differentiated against the term “rite” while the element of symbols must be understood as something that gives meaning to the whole experience. The term “rite” could be understood as the processual flow of reliving a sequence of events by means of representation through symbolic acts and objects. All these when completely carried out constitute what we call a ritual- the interplay of rites and symbols; the whole experience. To exemplify the interplay between rite and symbols, we can use two established events: ANZAC and Easter Vigil. A “rite” in an Eastern vigil would constitute getting up at down, followed by lighting of candles, singing praises, etc. and in the same way, ANZAC “rites” world include ringing of bells at dawn followed by marching around town and laying of wreaths made of red poppies at ANZAC shrines. To restore efficacy of a ritual, both of these events have to be carried out at specific places too complete with all symbolic articles to fully recreate the significance it is supposed to generate. In the case of Easter Vigil, the procession has to be started at a specific area and ends at the Church while ANZAC has to be commemorated also through procession which ends at the memorial shrine. Further, in an Eastern Vigil ritual, the following articles are regarded very important and must be present at all times: candles, bible, priest, water, oil, white garment, fire, cross, and Eucharist to name a few. Additionally, symbols are not limited only to physical objects for it includes gestures and/or events such as initiating procession during dawn, laying of hands, anointing with oil, and submerging into water. In the same way, ANZAC celebration calls for representatives to ring bells during dawn, marching around town, and create wreath made of red poppies and lay them all over a shrine. The value of the aforementioned symbols in the specific events mentioned is indispensible for it reveals so many things about a particular culture. Upon the execution of a ritual or ceremony, simple everyday objects are regarded as articles with evocative meaning embedded on them. In fact, Victor Turner conjectured that symbols are the smallest unit of ritual. Yet, even as the smallest part of a ritual, symbols play a very important role in a given ritual as it becomes the vehicle by which appropriate messages are sent across. This goes to show that though different in context, both ANZAC and Eater Vigil share various ...
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