chapter
III. THE INTERPRETATION OF THE CEREMONY
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His first step is obviously to ask the performers what they think they are achieving by their ritual behaviour and to summarize as accurately as possible the different views of the members of the community on these points. Such explanations may be called the expressed or formulated purposes of the rite, and it is important, to my mind, to distinguish very clearly from the outset what is said by the believers about a ritual act and what is deduced by the observer. There is certainly a good deal of variation in the extent to which people are able to formulate the objectives of their ritual. Some ceremonies are apparently performed with short-term ends which are clearly conceived and easily expressed. 'We do this to make childbirth easy' or 'to make the rain fall' for instance. Other symbolic acts may be performed with much more generalized objectives. l People will say they are carrying out a rite to ask for the blessings of the ancestors, to bring general good luck or happiness, or just 'to please the Gods'. They may believe that they can produce by their behaviour a desired condition of mind, or a harmonious system of relations. 'We do this to bring peace to the village' they may say; or 'to take anger from men's hearts',

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ceremony is unlikely to be given by the whole community or even by the ritual experts in it. The nature of ritual, as I hope to show, demands that there should be multiple explanations for most of the forms of symbolic behaviour which compose it. But since rites are, to my mind, invariably an effort to 'do'-to change the undesirable, or to maintain the desirable, I believe that there is always some purpose, however general, behind a ceremony which the performers can, and will, express. In our society a man will tell us that he is going to church to marry Miss Brown although he may be quite unable to explain the symbolism of the different ritual acts which contribute to this end. In the cultures more usually studied by the anthropologist even the statement that 'We do this because our ancestors did it' may be an expression of some purpose or end.