In the post-apocalyptic novel The Road by Cormac McCarthy, set in a world without structure or society, the desire for rituals remains, as “the boy” in the novel demonstrates:
“The boy sat tottering. The man watched him that he not topple into the flames. He kicked holes in the sand for the boy’s hips and shoulders where he would sleep and he sat holding him while he tousled his hair before the fire to dry it. All of this like some ancient anointing. So be it. Evoke the forms. Where you’ve nothing else construct ceremonies out of the air and breathe upon them.”
The Greatest Knight
In a documentary film on the medieval statesmen William the Marshal, professor Thomas Asbridge shares his experience of the power behind Marshal’s knighting ceremony. It provides an interesting corollary to the Christian sacraments and the transformation that (potentially) takes place in them.:
For me one of the most evocative moments from William’s life is that instance when he is created as a knight. But the most important part of that occasion for him, as it is for all other knights, is the moment when the sword is girded to his side…It’s a moment of transformation when they go from being one type of human being to another.
Here is an act that has no intrinsic magic. It is, in one sense, merely a symbol. But symbolic acts can be hugely significant if and when they are performed in certain contexts. Indeed, they can be transforming.
William would have girded a sword to his side day after day. But on this occasion it was literally life-changing, because it was part of a symbolic ceremony in a particular social and cultural context. It took on a significance that went beyond the bare act itself. As Asbridge says, “It’s a moment of transformation when they go from being one type of human being to another.”
Taken from “The Greatest Knight: William the Marshal”, BBC Two, broadcast on November 1, 2014.
People do Religious Things
Some of us are interested in religious studies because we are interested in people. People do religious things; they symbolize and ritualize their lives and desire to be in a community. What piqued my interest in shopping malls initially was there concrete expressions of all three of these religious impulses.
Quadrilateral architecture, calendric rituals, replications of natural settings, and attempts to be people, places, and objects of pilgrimage, all illustrate homo religiosus. The shopping mall as a ceremonial center, the shopping mall as ‘more than’ a marketplace, is one way contemporary people are meeting their needs for renewal and reconnection, essential ingredients of religious and human life.