chapter  9
26 Pages

Dynamic of Emotions and Dynamic of Rituals: Do Emotions Change Ritual Norms?

ByAngelos Chaniotis

The spontaneity of emotions unavoidably collides with the normative power of rituals in a variety of situations: when a man is mourning for his only son, a fallen soldier, while his city joyfully offers a thanksgiving sacrifi ce for a victory; when the harvest festival approaches and a farmer has just lost a mortgaged piece of land; when during a procession a poor woman is reminded that only the daughter of a wealthy family will carry the sacrifi cial basket;2 when a defeated athlete attends a festival among the common citizens and watches his victorious competitor marching on the head of the procession;3 when a woman observes the neighbour whom she hates offi ciate in a ritual as a priestess; when a community is obliged to

celebrate a festival after a devastating defeat in war or a natural catastrophe. When a norm prescribes that only a boy whose parents are both still alive (pais amphithalles) shall have the honour to carry a sacred object and sing hymns (e.g., Sokolowski 1955: no. 32), every orphan in the city is bitterly reminded of her/his unfortunate situation. I could go on describing situations in which the impersonal, timeless norms, which prescribe the performance of rituals, collide with the feelings of the individuals who perform them.