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I’m back! Hooray! And still struggling a little with this idea of ritual and sacrifice. I know I want to express something about it, but the question is, what? I mentioned yesterday that the old rituals must serve some purpose for us, since they continue to persist. My guess would be that there’s a bit of us that remains superstitious and irrational, no matter how much we consider ourselves creatures of reason.

Take me, for instance. I know perfectly well how aeroplanes get up and stay up, and I know that me crossing my fingers has nothing to do with it, but I still cross my fingers during every takeoff and landing. And you may laugh at me, but most of us have some remnant of superstition left about our persons, whether it’s not walking under ladders, knocking on wood, or using phrases like “tempting fate” in everyday conversation.

Now, I wouldn’t for a moment suggest that me crossing my fingers when an aeroplane takes off serves any purpose at all other than to make me feel better, and I expect the same goes for touching wood and similar little quirks. They satisfy the little pagan part of me that believes I’m the centre of a potentially malignant universe which needs placating if it’s not going to squash me like a bug. But larger rituals such as lighting lights at Christmas and letting off fireworks at New Year and the family and communal gatherings and activities which go along with them obviously do serve a greater purpose, of bonding those who take part in them and making them feel part of a greater community.

More tomorrow!