Short essay on the characteristics Ritual


A.R. Radcliffe-Erown has investigated the physical characteristics, language, culture and technology of this primitive society. This book is a major contribution to the development of modern anthropological techniques.

Brown admits that there can be no demonstrable certainty of conclusions through historical method in anthropology. As he said, “During the course of my work a systematic examination of the methods available for such reconstructions of the unknown past convinced me that it is only in extremely rare instances that we can even approach demonstrable conclusions and that speculative history cannot give us result of any real importance for the understanding of human life and culture.

The work of the historical ethnologists of the last twenty two years has only served to confirm me in that opinion.”


Meaning of Ritual

According to Brown, communication among men is not only through words but also through gestures and signs etc. Rituals, in a culture are meaningful activities that are considered valuable and which are collective expression of sentiments. As Brown has said, “Just in the sense that wprds have meanings, so do some other things in culture-customary gestures, ritual actions and abstentions, symbolic objects, myths, they are expressive signs. The meaning of a word, a gesture, a rite, lies in what it expresses and this is determined by its associations within a system of ideas,-sentiments and mental attitudes.”

Characteristics of Rituals

Thus ritual, according to Brown, possesses the following characteristics:


1. Certain social values are attached to rituals.

2. Rituals have force behind themselves, sometimes of fear, of terror of unknown forces and evil spirits and sometimes of the goodwill and sanction of the society.

3. Rituals have the characteristic of stability. They are observed in the same way generation after generation.

4. Rituals have the trait of being repeated on particular occasions. This can be seen among tribals on different occasions.


5. Rituals express group behaviour which includes beliefs and customs of the group concerning life and nature.

6. Rituals are the collective expressions of sentiment. This can be seen in rituals connected with weeping.

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