Ritual Analysis

You will select a specific ritual that we study in the course and the essay should include two parts: a descriptive
section and an analytical section. First, describe what happens in a specific ritual/ceremony from a Western
religious tradition that we study in this course. Description will answer questions like: Who is involved? Where
does the ritual take place? What actions occur? What materials are used? What is happening during the ritual?
Second, explain the religious significance of the ritual for the religious tradition. Why do people practice this
ritual? What does it symbolize? Why is it significant? Here you want to explain how the ritual is interpreted and
understood within the religion tradition. You will need connect it with particular doctrines, scriptures, or
historical developments within the tradition (ie. is this ritual discussed in religious scripture?). You may also
wish to explain if/how the ritual has changed over time and what the reasons are for this change.
Students must include a THESIS STATEMENT or argument in their essay, which should be located as the final
sentence of the introductory paragraph. Your thesis statement should make a clear argument about the
significance of the ritual (ie. it reflects a shift in identity, it solidifies a person’s position within the religious
community, it publicly demonstrates commitment to a religious tradition, etc.). Your thesis will be determined
after you have researched your selected ritual and you have familiarized yourself with several academic
publications on the topic. Your essay should demonstrate critical thinking, include a clear analysis, and explain
the arguments in your academic sources. Students should select ONE ritual from the following list:
Christianity: Communion/Eucharist
Islam: Hajj
Judaism: Hannukah
Religions of Antiquity: Divination
Indigenous Traditions: Sun Dance
NRM: Mormon Weddings OR Baptism by proxy OR Baha’i devotional celebrations OR Kabbalah meditation
OR Wiccan festivals OR auditing in Scientology

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