The focus this week was still on public rituals, and much of what has gone on in class has already made its way onto the blog.  We’ve got a roundup of the Palio posts and powerpoint slides with general info on public rituals.

We watched an ethnographic film on Shrovetide celebrations in the Baden region of Germany.  The Weekly Blog Ritual followed this up with a collection of videos from other regions of Germany.

Carnival was discussed:
•   It is a Christian ritual. It has its origin in the Middle Ages and is strongly connected with the Catholic church.
•    Carnival ist therefore limited to countries of predominant catholic denomination: Central and Southern Europe and Latin America.
•    Carnival is derived from Italian carne levare = farewell to meat.
•    Shrovetide is derived from to shrive = to hear the confession, to assign penance, and absolve.
•    Traditionally, Carnival is a time of liminality, for crossing the line, when men dress as women, and the poorest take over the city‘s streets, covered in glitter and gold.
•    Carnival was/is the time of masquerades, excessive eating, drinking, dancing, playing and performing, before Ash Wednesday brings it all to an end and Lent, 40 days of abstinence begins
•    Most public celebrations happen between Thursday and Tuesday, when life is lived on the streets and in pubs.

We finished up this weeky by using our general knowledge of public rituals and drawing on Carnival and the Palio as models to construct our own public ritual for New Zealand.


There has been a lot of discussion on the blogs about The Palio.   Here’s a roundup in case you’ve missed any

Also, google maps has an incredible array of photos of Siena, including some of The Palio.

The powerpoint presentation below will be useful in thinking about public rituals generally, but will also be instructive for our discussions of Palio and Carnival.

Firstly, the preface to Dundes & Falassi’s  La Terra in Piazza: An Interpretation of the Palio of Siena.  Googlebooks has let me down, so I’ve embedded the preface here for you to read:

It was a busy, busy week.  We covered the idea of liminality, dove into secular rituals, and began discussing public events/public rituals.

Information on Victor Turner and liminality is here.  We discussed liminality as a period of anti-structure, bracketed by times of structure.  Your classmates have written informative posts on the topic ranging from deciphering Turner’s article in your reader to a list of what often characterises the liminal phase.

After reading Moore & Myerhoff’s intro to secular ritual we discussed how reconfiguring the term ‘sacred’ meant that the study of ritual could migrate to a secular context.  The primary change was a broadening of what the term “sacred” could mean.  Since ‘sacred’ had usually been synonymous with the religious realm, it had the effect of making religious rituals and their effects unquestionable.  In theorising secular ritual, the unquestionable aspect of the sacred was retained, but it was teased away from a religious context.  The function of secular rituals is still to make their goals/effects seem unquestionable.  What differs between religious rituals and secular rituals are their explanations of causality.  Secular rituals move the earthly world; religious rituals move the heavens/entice the gods in order to impact the earthly world.

Have a look at these posts on Moore & Myerhoff’s explanation of Turner, the construction of image through ritual, thin vs thick description, the necessity of a cleansing ritual after a murder, and feelings of safety and acceptance that emerge out of ritual.

Regarding public rituals and events, we discussed some general characteristics that they often share and what purpose they can serve. I’ll leave out the details for now in the hopes that in your coming blog posts you will collectively create your own definition of public rituals.

We also watched a few videos on the Palio before we discussed the various ways you could approach the Palio and the symbolism involved: