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Religious Rituals and Traditions

The modern culture could not survive, if there were no ways of its transmission from generation to generation. Throughout history, there were several such methods or forms. Primary forms of continuity of culture are always connected with a cult. They exist to transfer something sacral and valuable to the community. These are religious rituals and traditions. Religious rituals and traditions unite those forms of behavior that are inherently iconic, symbolic, even if they have utilitarian and practical character in the basis. Gradually, symbolical and ritual functions started prevailing over a practical basis, therefore, it is necessary to study more closely the role and importance of religious traditions and rituals for a society.

Within rituals, there are religious actions and cults connecting modern people with their ancestors. The sacred purpose of rituals is a continuous reproduction, a peculiar spiritual restoration in the presence of the mythical events connected with important stages of the people’s last, and by that, the continuity of generations is emphasized. For example, ritual repair of the boat by Indians of Quechua occurs definitely only because their forefathers repaired boats in the same manner: thereby, Quechua emphasize their devotion both to the mythical ancestor, and to each other. Beyond of the ritual, they can repair the broken boat in a more convenient, modern way. However, then, it will be a simple repair of the boat, without any symbolical content.

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Due to their symbolic feature, rituals and religious traditions play a role of the mechanism of intra ethnic communications regulation, i.e. support a certain hierarchy of the ethnic statuses; help members of ethnic groups to assimilate to the group norms and values, giving them a recognition of the sacred unity and solidarity, and, hence, the security; help to remove stress of everyday life; and at the crisis moments, give the feeling of support and consent. Thus, the states use this symbolic power of rituals and traditions for own needs since over time, they are extended on the state ceremonials and ceremonial forms of the household relations (etiquette).

Confucius considered a tradition plays a role of a basis of a social order. Appealing to the experience of antiquity and using the concept of ethos, antique philosophers characterized tradition as the moral phenomenon. The moral tradition was understood by Herodotus as the main regulator of public stability. Socrates considered it as a core of the state legislation. The religious tradition interested antique authors to a lesser extent, probably, for the reason that its effect in society was less significant than the effect, for example, of the moral tradition.

Ontologically, ancient philosophers considered any tradition as a spiritual unit. The tradition was characterized as a derivative of the world reason, but not as a Divine providence. Interrelation of tradition with the Divine providence and God’s will is the central idea of the European medieval philosophical thought developing under the influence of Christianity. The tradition was considered as the removed reality of a divine origin, invariable on the essence and absolute on the importance. Traditions are important due to their sacrality since they define an order of human life, subordinate it. In medieval Christian and scholastic thinking, the tradition was interpreted only as the mechanism of preservation of Christian values, and secular traditions were admitted in case they promoted strengthening of the authority of the church.

Religious rituals and traditions are and have always been an efficient tool for mass psychology management among various governors. Gradually, ritual gains the nature of systematic following to traditional rules, which often do not meet the latest requirements any more, but are supported for the reasons connected with the interests of governors, namely, with the clumsiness of social institutes and inertia of mass psychology. However, as it turned out, rejection of one after another ritual elements consistently leads either to destruction, or to the transformation of the corresponding institutional structures, which partially consist in these the ritualized structures of actions. Revolutions begin with an anti-ritual protest and end with a total destruction of the relevant institutes. Anyway, rituals and religious traditions mean a dedication, which is a very important aspect of familiarizing with a certain religion and systems of values, ethnicity, and the state.

Though religious traditions act as the main regulator of human interaction, generally, at early stages of human community and in so-called “traditional societies,” they, however, continue to exist and function at the level of the dynamic and developed ethnic systems, representing more or less obligatory example of behavior in life. A person, who is not observing religious traditions, is, anyway, rejected by society. Thus, in traditions, the power of society is manifested.

Religious traditions are necessary to unite the society. The stability of traditions and their resistance to changes are so high due to the fact that traditions are always formed in society and perceived by society as a value, and because of such perception, they are defined as the collective requirement. In this case, it is possible to say that one of the main functions of traditions in society is a preservation and rescue of irrevocably left in life. The tradition is a social habit, so often repeated by members of a group, ethnos or representatives of any civilization that, as a result, gains the nature of the mechanical action, common for all. It can be called as a public habit. In this publicity and obligation, the power of the religious tradition is manifested.

The tradition is the natural, objective and necessary element of the social system acting in the history of the society as the guarantor of its stability, as a culture-saving factor. The tradition defines a continuity of social history, its own system logic, and the orientation in time. It provides historical connection of the public relations in the organic system, being the immanent law of the social self-movement, self-organization and self-government of the society in general and its certain spheres: productive and economic, cultural, religious, etc..

Religion as a complex structural unity, functioning in society, does not simply rely on tradition as a component; it makes religious traditionalism as a means of social adaptation of the individual or even the whole society to the surrounding world. Conditions for the functioning of religion in society are determined by socioeconomic and ideological characteristics of a particular social system. The religious tradition supposes a double functional plan. On the one hand, it acts as a mechanism of preservation, fixing and transfer of religious experience, thereby representing a way of expression of the features of the religious consciousness of the concrete confessional direction. On the other hand, the religious tradition is a reflection of the historical development of a certain society and a way of introduction of the individual or a social group to this certain historical life.

The tradition is much more connected with the practice of everyday life, than ritual. Ritual is a transition from the mundane to the sacred, from illusion to reality and eternity, from death to life, from a man to a god. Any ritual has a sacral model. All religious acts were founded by gods or mythical ancestors. Among primitive peoples, all human actions were successful since they repeated the actions, which were carried out by a god or an ancestor at the beginning of times. The person only repeats the act of creation; his religious calendar marks all cosmogonic phases for one year. Any ritual, except that it takes place in a sacred time, i.e., when it was performed for the first time by a god or ancestor, also takes place in the hallowed space differing significantly from the mundane space. The sacred mountain, where the sky and the earth meet, any temple or a palace, any sacred city or an imperial residence can be a Center of the World.

The divine prototype is also observed in the cities. Thus, due to the nature of rituals, any construction and production activities turn a cosmogony into their prototype. A dwelling is the Universe, which the person creates imitating the creation by gods, i.e. a cosmogony. Any construction of new housing reminds the beginning, new life, and repeats the primary beginning, when there was a Universe. Even nowadays, in modern societies, taking up residence in a new house is followed by fun and celebration, which imitate the early rituals.

Marriage rituals also have a sacral model since wedding reproduces a sacred marriage, the union concluded between the heaven and the earth. New Year, representing an imitation of the Creation, assumes the restoration of primary Time. Therefore, on the occasion of the New Year, various acts of clarification and exile of sins were undertaken. All sins and everything that was spoiled and profaned by Time were destroyed in physical sense. Symbolically participating in the destruction and reconstruction of the World, a person was recreated anew as well. Thus, rituals are important due to a fact that they make a holiday a restoration of a mythical event in the present. In a holiday, sacred values of life can be found, and owing to the holidays, it is possible to learn the person as a creation of God.

Though the tradition often has affiliated relation to this form of continuity, this relation, after all, is bilateral. Ritual can turn into tradition, having lost its meaning. In its turn, transformation of tradition into the ritual is possible as well. For example, the religious tradition forbidding consumption of pork originally arose because of the conditions of the hot climate, bacteria deadly to humans breed in an organism of pigs. Thus, ritual, being a constituent aspect, is included into a tradition as a household way of transfer of culture from generation to generation.

To sum up, it should be stated that in religious traditions and rituals, the experience of the religious, social and patrimonial relations is transmitted. Along with language, they keep unity of a certain human community – a tribe, ethnic group, and nation. Thus, the ritual pervades all aspects of human and collective life in religious, social and psychological aspects, and, thus, is an integral part of the culture. Even not a religious person, who does not understand the sense of ceremonies and holidays, participates in them. The value of ritual is not limited to a framework of traditional cultures. Ritual meets needs of the person of any era and culture. In turn, the past imprinted in tradition leaves the mark on familiarizing of a particular society with modernization. The concept of tradition includes all spiritual heritages passed from generation to generation. The criterion of the public importance of any tradition, including educational, is its compliance to the purposes and problems of moral education. Traditions lift human relations in society, family and life on a new stage, help to build a better life, beautiful in form and rich in content, to educate new generations at the high level of ethical standards and principles.

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