Barbara Myerhoff

[Ritual] dwells in an invisible reality and gives this reality a vocabulary, props, costume, gesture, scenery. Ritual makes things separate, sets them apart from ordinary affairs and thoughts. Rituals need not be solemn, but they are formalized, stylized, extraordinary, and artificial. In the name of ritual, we can do anything. We can do astonishing acts. In the end, ritual gives us assurance about the unification of things.

All rituals are paradoxical and dangerous enterprises, the traditional and improvised, the sacred and the secular. Paradoxical because rituals are conspicuously artificial and theatrical, yet designed to suggest the inevitability and absolute truth of their messages. Dangerous because when we are not convinced by a ritual we may become aware of ourselves as having made them up, thence on the paralyzing realization that we have made up all our truths; our ceremonies, our most precious conceptions and convictions – all are mere inventions.