Chapter 3. Ritual

Families who recognize with ritual the important passages in their members' lives seem to fare better at overcoming the shirtsleeves proverb. This should not be surprising, since the creation and practice of rituals marking important developmental steps in the life of a human being are at the core of successful tribal life.

Tribes are the extended generations of an original family. Anthropology teaches that a tribe is the result of a family in its second or third generation having formed clans, and then of those clans in the fourth and fifth generations electing to stay together, thus eventually creating a tribe. From such beginnings many tribes have successfully continued for dozens of generations, thus overcoming the shirtsleeves proverb. The Iroquois are a good example.

Clearly, a tribe is not based solely on genetic ties, given the small amount of unique DNA it shares from a common ancestor. Rather, it is the stories of the experiences and practices of the early generations that link these people as a tribe. These linkages are part of what defines a tribe as a family of affinity rather than merely of blood. The rituals that tribes create, often unique to them and representing their "differentness," arise from their stories and experiences. These rituals offer the tribe's members a way of linking themselves to their ancestors, to their stories, to the uniqueness of their tribe, and to their special place in it.

What is the nature of ritual and its place in the ...

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