Special Issue "Religion, Ritual and Ritualistic Objects"

A special issue of Religions (ISSN 2077-1444).

Deadline for manuscript submissions: closed (30 June 2018)

Special Issue Editor

Guest Editor
Prof. Dr. Albertina (Tineke) Nugteren

Department of Culture Studies, Tilburg School of Humanities, Tilburg University, PO Box 90153, 5000 LE Tilburg, The Netherlands
Website 1 | Website 2 | E-Mail
Interests: Asian cultures and religions; ritual studies; anthropology of the senses; cultural diversity; funerary culture; religion and nature; critical discourses on the ‘greening’ of religions

Special Issue Information

Dear Colleagues,

From a merely functional perspective, ritual objects serve symbolic and/or sacred purposes. Such codified objects have regularly played a crucial part in the evolution of religions: (1) they give a sense of direction and meaning on the level of ceremonies, rites and rituals; (2) they provide individuals, groups and the state with collective symbols. Some of those objects have been so closely associated with the divine, the sacred, and the sublime that they are considered either symbolic manifestations of a deity or actual manifestations of that deity itself. Objects used in cults, rituals and sacred ceremonies are also of a utilitarian nature: not only are they material things, they are also devices. As mediatory devices they are employed as a means for empowering communication channels between the realms of the sacred and the profane. In worship, veneration and meditation such objects are given a symbolic meaning that transcends their immediate materiality and practical purposes. They may mark off the sacred setting, invoke the deities, furnish the site with meaningful symbols, protect the enactments taking place there, ensure their effectiveness, and afterwards enable the symbolic order to live on in the bodies and minds of the faithful.

Disciplinary focus: Taking our cue from research on material religion, material culture and ritual studies this special issue focuses on the dynamic interrelations between objects, ritual and belief. It explores how religion happens through physical encounters between human bodies, sensual objects, ritual dynamics, sacred space, and symbolic materiality.

Scope: For this special issue on ritual objects we envisage a wide range of contributions on material culture and ritual practices across religions. Our primary interest is in things: tangible material things as used in religious ritual settings. Every contribution is preferably structured along the following guidelines: (1) An introduction to the particular religion-specific object (its materiality; its ritual use and function; its symbolism); (2) A thick description of the object as alive in a specific ritual enactment; (3) A conceptual or comparative reflection on its (intra-religious) specificity and (inter-religious) generality; (4) A rethinking of (re)presentation.

Purpose: By collecting widely diverse object descriptions within various ‘live’ ritual settings there are crucial ‘object lessons’ to be learned. Additionally, ‘thinking through things’ as used in ritual dynamics and religious locations may tell us more about the ways such objects may produce particular effects. Religions may well be more physical and sensual than we imagined.

Relation to existing literature: Inspired by Ritual Studies specialist Ronald Grimes’ presentation of research on rituals as a ‘craft’ (Grimes 2014), this special issue, through a study of objects in the dynamics of a ritual arena, aspires to further refine close descriptions and ritual analyses. By critically engaging with both the politics of representation and religion-specific politics of imagination in an object-centered approach the articles also address discourses on embodiment, objectification and a spirituality of the senses.

Contributions are invited in a wide range of genres and topics:

-Bodies (hands and hand gestures; bodily postures; feet; sounds and sound devices; music and musical instruments; silence)

-Plants (trees; wood; forest; grove; flowers; fruit; herbs; drugs; hallucinogenics; sacred plants)

-Animals (animal masks; animal skulls; totem animals; animals as symbols; theriomorphic deities; sacred animals; sacrificial animals; animals as medium)

-Minerals (stones; rocks; gemstones; meteorites; fossils; menhirs)

-Ritual implements (pestle and mortar; spoon; cup; plate; chalice; bowl; dish; vessel; vat)

-Clothing (dress; vestments; garments; robes, headdress; hair; tonsure; crown; cap; jewelry)

-Iconography and representational objects (sculpture; statues; paintings; aniconic objects; impersonification; ritual re-enactment; ritual drama)

-Weapons (arms; knife; sword; dagger; bow; shield; wand; staff; poison; medicine; magical formulae)

-Concentration devices (rosaries; incense; concentric drawings; relics; amulets; geometrical patterns; interiorization techniques; colour schemes)

- Writing (ritual manuals; hymnals; scriptures; calligraphy; book stand; lectern; pulpit; minbar)

-Food and drink (diet; fasting; honey; meat; wine; communal meal; blood; sexual substances)

-Lighting and smoke devices (candle; lantern; lamp; fire; heat; smoke; incense; darkness; blindfold)

-Ritual calendar (time; almanac; seasons; the ritual year; constellations; eclipses; astrological charts; cosmology)

-Architecture (orientation; geometry; columns; domes; windows; niches; threshold spaces; spatial segregation; sacred furniture; altar; throne)

-Natural site (sacred geography; elements; ‘the quaternity of perfection’ (mountain, tree, stone, and water); crossroads; mound; ocean; volcano; natural circle; maze; spiral)

Prof. Dr. Albertina (Tineke)  Nugteren

Guest Editor

Manuscript Submission Information

Manuscripts should be submitted online at www.mdpi.com by registering and logging in to this website. Once you are registered, click here to go to the submission form. Manuscripts can be submitted until the deadline. All papers will be peer-reviewed. Accepted papers will be published continuously in the journal (as soon as accepted) and will be listed together on the special issue website. Research articles, review articles as well as short communications are invited. For planned papers, a title and short abstract (about 100 words) can be sent to the Editorial Office for announcement on this website.

Submitted manuscripts should not have been published previously, nor be under consideration for publication elsewhere (except conference proceedings papers). All manuscripts are thoroughly refereed through a double-blind peer-review process. A guide for authors and other relevant information for submission of manuscripts is available on the Instructions for Authors page. Religions is an international peer-reviewed open access monthly journal published by MDPI.

Please visit the Instructions for Authors page before submitting a manuscript. Submitted papers should be well formatted and use good English. Authors may use MDPI's English editing service prior to publication or during author revisions.

Keywords

  • Religion Studies

  • Ritual Studies

  • material culture

  • object lessons

  • symbols

  • anthropology of the senses

Published Papers (9 papers)

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Research

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Open AccessArticle Matter in Motion: A Dogon Kanaga Mask
Religions 2018, 9(9), 264; https://doi.org/10.3390/rel9090264
Received: 6 August 2018 / Revised: 27 August 2018 / Accepted: 29 August 2018 / Published: 6 September 2018
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Abstract
Dogon masks have been famous for a long time—and none more so than the kanaga mask, the so-called croix de Lorraine. A host of interpretations of this particular mask circulate in the literature, ranging from moderately exotic to extremely exotic. This contribution will
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Dogon masks have been famous for a long time—and none more so than the kanaga mask, the so-called croix de Lorraine. A host of interpretations of this particular mask circulate in the literature, ranging from moderately exotic to extremely exotic. This contribution will focus on one particular mask situated within the whole mask troupe, and it will do so in the ritual setting to which it belongs: a second funeral, long after the burial. A description of this ritual shows how the mask troupe forms the constantly moving focus in a captivating ritual serving as second funeral. Thus, the mask rites bridge major divides in Dogon culture, between male and female, between man and nature, and between this world and the supernatural one. They are able to do so because they themselves are in constant motion, between bush and village and between sky and earth. Masks are matter in motion and symbols in context. Within imagistic religions such as the Dogon one, these integrative functions form a major focus of Dogon masks rituals—and hence, to some extent, of African mask rituals in general. In the Dogon case, the ritual creates a virtual reality through a highly embodied performance by the participants themselves. Then, the final question can be broached, that of interpretation. What, in the end, do these masquerades signify? And our kanaga mask, what does it stand for? Full article
(This article belongs to the Special Issue Religion, Ritual and Ritualistic Objects)
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Open AccessArticle Continuity and Discontinuity in 17th- and 18th-Century Ecclesiastical Silverworks from the Southern Andes
Religions 2018, 9(9), 262; https://doi.org/10.3390/rel9090262
Received: 12 July 2018 / Revised: 14 August 2018 / Accepted: 15 August 2018 / Published: 3 September 2018
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Abstract
This article deals with interpretations of images on silver ecclesiastical objects from the Southern Andes dating from the 17th and 18th centuries. The silverworks communicate contents on a nonverbal level and are integrated into ritual acts in the context of church services; this
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This article deals with interpretations of images on silver ecclesiastical objects from the Southern Andes dating from the 17th and 18th centuries. The silverworks communicate contents on a nonverbal level and are integrated into ritual acts in the context of church services; this facilitates associations with non-Christian beliefs. If the images are studied by means of a combination of various analytical levels, transcultural processes become apparent in the images on the objects studied, and meanings emerge that would not have been brought to light by simple image analysis. This applies particularly to the comparison with possible indigenous meanings of European images, which enables a much more comprehensive interpretation. Depending on the beholder, the images may be interpreted as expressing continuity, i.e., as representations of indigenous beliefs; as expressing discontinuity, i.e., as representations of Christian beliefs; or as the result of a transfer of meaning encompassing and combining both belief systems, thus enabling a new way of “reading” them. However, a transcultural process of regional relocation and use of cultural elements is not only visible in the images; it is also illustrated by the ecclesiastical silverworks in the Americas as such, given the European influence manifest in them. Full article
(This article belongs to the Special Issue Religion, Ritual and Ritualistic Objects)
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Open AccessArticle The Ritualizing of the Martial and Benevolent Side of Ravana in Two Annual Rituals at the Sri Devram Maha Viharaya in Pannipitiya, Sri Lanka
Religions 2018, 9(9), 250; https://doi.org/10.3390/rel9090250
Received: 29 June 2018 / Revised: 17 August 2018 / Accepted: 19 August 2018 / Published: 21 August 2018
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Abstract
Within the context of Ravanisation—by which I mean the current revitalisation of Ravana among Sinhalese Buddhists in Sri Lanka—multiple conceptualizations of Ravana are constructed. This article concentrates on two different Ravana conceptualizations: Ravana as a warrior king and Ravana as a healer.
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Within the context of Ravanisation—by which I mean the current revitalisation of Ravana among Sinhalese Buddhists in Sri Lanka—multiple conceptualizations of Ravana are constructed. This article concentrates on two different Ravana conceptualizations: Ravana as a warrior king and Ravana as a healer. At the Sri Devram Maha Viharaya, a recently constructed Buddhist complex in Colombo, Ravana has become the object of devotion. In addition to erecting a Ravana statue in a shrine of his own, two annual rituals for Ravana are organized by this temple. In these rituals we can clearly discern the two previously mentioned conceptualizations: the Ravana perahera (procession) mainly concentrates on Ravana’s martial side by exalting Ravana as warrior king, and in the maha Ravana nanumura mangalyaya, a ritual which focusses on healing, his benevolent side as a healer is stressed. These conceptualizations from the broader Ravana discourse are ritualized in iconography, attributes, and sacred substances. The focus on ritual invention in this article not only directs our attention to the creativity within the rituals but also to the wider context of these developments: the glorification of an ancient civilization as part of increased nationalistic sentiments and an increased assertiveness among the Sinhalese Buddhist majority in post-war Sri Lanka. Full article
(This article belongs to the Special Issue Religion, Ritual and Ritualistic Objects)
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Open AccessArticle Bare Feet and Sacred Ground: “Viṣṇu Was Here”
Religions 2018, 9(7), 224; https://doi.org/10.3390/rel9070224
Received: 29 June 2018 / Revised: 16 July 2018 / Accepted: 16 July 2018 / Published: 23 July 2018
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Abstract
The meaning of a symbol is not intrinsic and should best be seen in relation to the symbolic order underlying it. In this article we explore the ritual complexities pertaining to the body’s most lowly and dirty part: the feet. On entering sacred
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The meaning of a symbol is not intrinsic and should best be seen in relation to the symbolic order underlying it. In this article we explore the ritual complexities pertaining to the body’s most lowly and dirty part: the feet. On entering sacred ground persons are admonished to take off their footwear. In many parts of Asia pointing one’s feet in the direction of an altar, one’s teacher or one’s elders is considered disrespectful. Divine feet, however, are in many ways focal points of devotion. By reverently bowing down and touching the feet of a deity’s statue, the believer acts out a specific type of expressive performance. The core of this article consists of a closer look at ritualized behavior in front of a particular type of divine feet: the natural ‘footprint’ (viṣṇupāda) at Gayā, in the state of Bihar, India. By studying its ‘storied’ meaning we aspire to a deepened understanding of the ‘divine footprint’ in both its embodiedness and embeddedness. Through a combination of approaches—textual studies, ritual studies, ethnography—we emplace the ritual object in a setting in which regional, pan-Indian, and even cosmogonic myths are interlocked. We conclude that by an exclusive focus on a single ritual object—as encountered in a particular location—an object lesson about feet, footsteps, foot-soles, and footprints opens up a particular ‘grammar of devotion’ in terms of both absence and presence. Full article
(This article belongs to the Special Issue Religion, Ritual and Ritualistic Objects)
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Open AccessArticle When Children Participate in the Death Ritual of a Parent: Funerary Photographs as Mnemonic Objects
Religions 2018, 9(7), 215; https://doi.org/10.3390/rel9070215
Received: 26 June 2018 / Revised: 5 July 2018 / Accepted: 9 July 2018 / Published: 11 July 2018
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Abstract
When children lose a parent during childhood this offers emotional and life changing moments. It is important for them to be included in the death ritual and to be recognized as grievers alongside adults. Recent research has shown that children themselves consider it
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When children lose a parent during childhood this offers emotional and life changing moments. It is important for them to be included in the death ritual and to be recognized as grievers alongside adults. Recent research has shown that children themselves consider it relevant to be part of the ‘communitas’ of grievers and do not like to be set aside because they are considered to be too young to participate. In this case study, I describe how a Dutch mother encouraged her three children, aged 12, 9 and 6, to participate in the death rituals of their father. She asked a funeral photographer to document the rituals. In that way, later on in their life, the children would have a visual report of the time of his death in addition to their childhood memories. The objective of my case study research was first, to explore in detail hów children are able to participate in death rituals in a carefully contemplated manner and in accordance with their age and wishes, and second, to examine the relevance of funeral photographs to them in later years. The funeral photographs will be presented as a visual essay of how and when the children took part in the rituals and which ritual objects, such as the coffin and the grave, but also letters, poems and drawings were important in creating an ongoing bond with their deceased father. The conclusion of this case study presentation is that funeral photographs of death rituals may function as mnemonic objects later on in the life of children who lost a parent in their childhood. These photographs enable children, when necessary, to materialize how they participated in the death ritual of their father or mother. In this respect they can be seen as functional means of continuing bonds in funeral culture, linking the past with the present, in particular when young children are involved. Full article
(This article belongs to the Special Issue Religion, Ritual and Ritualistic Objects)
Open AccessArticle On the Xiapu Ritual Manual Mani the Buddha of Light
Religions 2018, 9(7), 212; https://doi.org/10.3390/rel9070212
Received: 30 May 2018 / Revised: 17 June 2018 / Accepted: 29 June 2018 / Published: 9 July 2018
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Abstract
This paper first introduces Mani the Buddha of Light—a collection of ritual manuals of the Religion of Light from Xiapu county, Fujian Province, China and Diagram of the Universe—a Manichaean painting produced in South China in the late 14th to early
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This paper first introduces Mani the Buddha of Light—a collection of ritual manuals of the Religion of Light from Xiapu county, Fujian Province, China and Diagram of the Universe—a Manichaean painting produced in South China in the late 14th to early 15th century. It then gives a detailed description of Mani the Buddha of Light with some illustrations of Diagram of the Universe. This paper further compares Mani the Buddha of Light and Buddhist worship and repentance ritual to demonstrate that the former utilized the form of the latter. It also analyzes the similarities and differences between the pantheons of Mani the Buddha of Light and other Manichaean materials. Ultimately it discusses the hypothesis that many pieces of the original texts in Mani the Buddha of Light should have come into being during the 9th–11th centuries and have been handed down generation after generation because of the strong vitality of its rituals. Full article
(This article belongs to the Special Issue Religion, Ritual and Ritualistic Objects)
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Open AccessArticle Lamòling Bèaka: Immanence, Rituals, and Sacred Objects in an Unwritten Legend in Alor
Religions 2018, 9(7), 211; https://doi.org/10.3390/rel9070211
Received: 8 June 2018 / Revised: 3 July 2018 / Accepted: 4 July 2018 / Published: 7 July 2018
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Abstract
This paper recounts a parallel story of the Lamòling myth. The original analysis of the legend addressed the relationship between two gods, Lamòling and Lahatàla, from the Abui traditional religion. The myth evolved from ancestral times to the arrival of Christianity in
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This paper recounts a parallel story of the Lamòling myth. The original analysis of the legend addressed the relationship between two gods, Lamòling and Lahatàla, from the Abui traditional religion. The myth evolved from ancestral times to the arrival of Christianity in Alor, with the resultant association of the ‘bad’ god as a demon and, finally, as the devil. This paper completes the myth as handed down from traditional ‘owners’ of the narrative and storytellers by telling a parallel version centered around an Abui ‘prophet’, Fanny, who was the only person able to travel to Lamòling Bèaka, ‘the land of the Lamòling gods/servants’. We also focus on a number of sacred objects and rituals associated with this religious myth and on their symbolic meaning for the Abui. This account tells a different version of the killing and eating of an Abui child by these gods/supernatural entities and of how Fanny came upon the gruesome feast. The paradoxical absence of Lamòling in this version of the myth depicts him as an immanent being, pervading and sustaining all that is real and created in nature, existing anywhere and nowhere at the same time. Full article
(This article belongs to the Special Issue Religion, Ritual and Ritualistic Objects)
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Open AccessArticle ‘Requiescat in Pace’. Initiation and Assassination Rituals in the Assassin’s Creed Game Series
Religions 2018, 9(5), 167; https://doi.org/10.3390/rel9050167
Received: 16 April 2018 / Revised: 15 May 2018 / Accepted: 18 May 2018 / Published: 21 May 2018
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Abstract
The Assassin’s Creed game series (Ubisoft 2007, 2009, 2010, 2011, 2012, 2013a, 2013b, 2014, 2015, 2017) revolves around an alternative interpretation of human history as an ongoing battle between two rival factions: the Assassin Brotherhood (modelled on the historical Nizar Isma’ilis) and the
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The Assassin’s Creed game series (Ubisoft 2007, 2009, 2010, 2011, 2012, 2013a, 2013b, 2014, 2015, 2017) revolves around an alternative interpretation of human history as an ongoing battle between two rival factions: the Assassin Brotherhood (modelled on the historical Nizar Isma’ilis) and the Templar Order (inspired by the historical Order of the Knights Templar). Both factions compete over the possession of mythical artefacts, called the ‘Apples of Eden’, which once belonged to a now extinct proto-human race. The possession of these artefacts gives the owner incredible knowledge and the ability to manipulate large numbers of people. The Templars strive for world domination, while the Assassins want to prevent this; their aim is to develop human consciousness and individual freedom. Considering games as ‘playable texts’, I make an inventory of three in-game rituals, two of the Assassin Brotherhood and one of the Templar Order. Both initiation and assassination rituals are quite elaborate given the context of the games in which they are displayed. Progression and regression can be observed in terms of ritual practices within the primary series of the game series, which stretches from ancient Egypt to modernity. This article describes the three ritual practices mentioned within the Assassin’s Creed series, and links them to the larger metanarrative of the series. Full article
(This article belongs to the Special Issue Religion, Ritual and Ritualistic Objects)

Review

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Open AccessReview Influences of Egyptian Lotus Symbolism and Ritualistic Practices on Sacral Tree Worship in the Fertile Crescent from 1500 BCE to 200 CE
Religions 2018, 9(9), 256; https://doi.org/10.3390/rel9090256
Received: 2 August 2018 / Revised: 21 August 2018 / Accepted: 23 August 2018 / Published: 27 August 2018
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Abstract
Many conventional features of world tree motifs in the ancient Near East—including stalked palmettes, aureoles of water lily palmettes connected by pliant stems, floral rosettes, winged disks and bud-and-blossom motifs—trace largely from Egyptian practices in lotus symbolism around 2500 BCE, more than a
[...] Read more.
Many conventional features of world tree motifs in the ancient Near East—including stalked palmettes, aureoles of water lily palmettes connected by pliant stems, floral rosettes, winged disks and bud-and-blossom motifs—trace largely from Egyptian practices in lotus symbolism around 2500 BCE, more than a millennium before they appear, migrate and dominate plant symbolism across the Fertile Crescent from 1500 BCE to 200 CE. Several of these motifs were associated singularly or collectively with the Egyptian sema-taui and ankh signs to symbolize the eternal recurrence and everlasting lives of Nilotic lotus deities and deceased pharaohs. The widespread use of lotus imagery in iconographic records on both sides of the Red Sea indicates strong currents of cultural diffusion between Nilotic and Mesopotamian civilizations, as does the use of lotus flowers in religious rituals and the practice of kingship, evidence for which is supported by iconographic, cuneiform and biblical records. This perspective provides new insights into sacral tree symbolism and its role in mythic legacies of Egypt and the Middle East before and during the advent of Christianity. Closer scholarly scrutiny is still needed to fully comprehend the underlying meaning of immortalizing plants in the mythic traditions of Egypt, the Levant and Mesopotamia. Full article
(This article belongs to the Special Issue Religion, Ritual and Ritualistic Objects)
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