What motivates ritual participation?

People’s motivations to partake in religious rituals often relate to external socio-cultural forces such as tradition, ancestry, and peer-pressure, or deep personal convictions centered around devotion, gratitude, or spiritual experience. However, devotees may also have pragmatic motivations for practicing rituals, such as the need for protection, wellbeing, or socializing, or may see those rituals as a means of fulfilling their wishes. Why do people choose to engage in the specific rituals that they do, especially given that some are much costlier than others?

18 Oct 2022

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Maňo’s and Xygalatas‘ fieldwork suggests that perceived ritual efficacy could be a key cognitive factor at play. They suggest that people seek rituals that they consider appropriate (in terms of their structure and focus) and proportionate (in terms of their costs) to their needs and expectations. Reporting six representative cases, the authors demonstrate this almost contractual logic of ritual performance on the concept of promise that is quintessential to the biggest religious festivals of three Hindu communities in Mauritius.

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