Native American Ritualism vs. Modern Rituals This essay compares elements of the native american Sweat Lodge ritual to the modern American ritual of the court trial.

Essay by oboejoeA, December 2002

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Native American Ritualism vs. Modern Rituals

Ritualism is present in many aspects of all types of religions, societies, and cultures around the world. The ritual is defined by several characteristics which make it an important, symbolic part of people's lives. Rituals are applied for all sorts of different purposes, most often religious in nature, but not always so, and are always meaningful in some way. Native American tribes are the origin of several traditional rituals, including widely used by many tribes across America today, the Sweat Lodge rite. Although the Sweat Lodge and other rituals belong to religious tribes, ritualism is by no means strictly limited to religious contexts. There exist many rituals in modern American society which are not so obvious, which share some symbolism with the Sweat Lodge. One example is the American judicial system, which while not obvious at first, is a highly ritualized, symbolic ceremony. Both the Sweat Lodge and the trial share many of the characteristics which distinguish ritual.

Rituals are characterized by several important traits, no matter what the context and significance. First of all, rituals are actions, physically performed, or in other words, directly enacted by the people and not simply ideas or words. These actions are highly formalized and patterned, which is to say there is a traditional, established and often dramatic way in which the ceremony is done. The ritual is a serious paradigm for the people, who share a specific idea of how things are supposed to be done. Most of all, the ritual is always referential, and represents a greater symbolism, which is not always obvious to an outsider. People and objects become important symbols, often mystical in nature.

The most common rituals are found within religions around the world, but rituals are indeed found everywhere among all groups...