Introduction to Rituals
This essay is another step in my religious studies. The aim of this essay is to define rituals, and to look at the different types of rituals and theories of ritual. As with everything to do with religion, there is much to cover and not a lot of space to do it.
What is ritual?
So what exactly is a ritual? The English word ritual comes from the Latin word ritualis, which means of ceremonies. Ritualis is derived from the Latin word ritus, which means rite or ceremony. Ritus itself can be traced to the Proto-Indo-European root (*ar-). The earliest known usage of the word ritual in English dates back to the sixteenth century CE. 
Just like myths and religion, ritual also has its slew of theories, and not surprisingly this theories come from the same people who gave us the theories of myth and religion. Rituals at first were not studied independently but rather as part of something else. They were studied as part of anthropology, religious studies, history, sociology and psychology. The approaches to ritual include functionalism, psychoanalysis, phenomenology, structuralism, culturalism, performance studies, and practice theories, as well as cognitive, ethological, and sociological methods. So let us take a look some of the theories of ritual.
Myth ritualists like Frazer and Robertson Smith saw rituals as activities communally organized and executed, the script and meaning of which could later float free to create literature or myths.
Emile Durkheim defined rituals as the rules of conduct governing human activities in the face of the sacred, or those things set apart and forbidden.
To Mary Douglas rituals act as a form of communication that has a constraining effect on social behavior.
Henri Hubert and Marcel Mauss decided that the ritual experience was not as important as its structured sequence. They tried to show that ritual is fundamental to the creation and maintenance of a sacred realm distinct from the human, the very foundation of religion.
Eliade argued that in ritual people symbolically performed the acts of the gods that are recounted in myths about how they brought order to the primordial chaos.
Jonathan Z. Smith defined ritual as a dramatization of how things should be, not how they actually are. To him rituals are a kind of focusing lens for seeing what is of value.
Arnold Von Gennp, Bruce Lincoln and Ronald Grimes all focused on rites of passage as the more important rituals.
Victor Turner saw rituals as a process that puts structural elements of society into dialectical interplay with society’s anti-structural elements, such as various egalitarian groupings of men and women as well as symbols of paradox.
Clifford Geetz saw ritual as the way that people at once affirm and embody social values. 
Looking for the definition of ritual in the dictionary yields the following: Ritual (noun): 1. The established form of ceremony, specifically the order of words prescribed for a religious ceremony. 2. (a) ritual observance, specifically a system of rites. (b) A ceremonial act or action, and (c) an act or series of acts regularly repeated in a set of precise manner. Ritual (adjective): 1. Of or relating to rites or a ritual, 2. According to religious law, and 3. Done in accordance with social custom or normal protocol. 
Now that we know some of the possible definitions and theories of ritual, let us go a little in depth and talk about the components of ritual.
The components of ritual depend on who is looking at the ritual but the most obvious components are: ritual space, ritual objects, ritual time, ritual sound and language and ritual action.
So now you’ve decided on the type of ritual you want to do and you have a general idea of how it will go.
The first thing you should decide is where to have it. Will it be indoors or outdoors? If it is outdoors will you need to build a space? If so, what kind of materials will you need? Is the space clean enough to use or will you need to beautify it? If you are doing this indoors, where will it happen do you have the space for it? What kind of preparations will the space need?
Next you will need to gather the objects you need for the ritual. Make a list so you don’t forget anything and be sure you plan early so that you have time to get the things you need.
Depending on what kind of ritual you will be doing you will need to choose a time for your ritual. Some times the timing is set and you have a certain window of time to perform the ritual and sometimes time does not matter. Be sure you know what type your ritual is.
The next two components of ritual go hand in hand. Sound, language and action are the particulars of the ritual. You will need to decide ahead of time whether you will need music, or whether you are going to perform a dance or whether it will be mostly through gestures and prayers.
Almost all rituals go through these steps, and if you go through these steps you will have a well-organized ritual. 
Types of Rituals
Now that we know a little about rituals let us look at the major types of rituals.
Rites of passage are ceremonies that accompany and dramatize events like birth, coming – of – age initiations for boys and girls, marriage and death. In other words, they mark a person’s transition from one stage of social life to another.
The next major category of rituals is calendrical rites. These rites give socially meaningful definitions to the passage of time. Calendrical rites are periodical, predictable, accompanying seasonal changes in light, weather, agricultural work, and other social activities. Some of these rites are solar while others are lunar or agricultural in nature. Some times it is according to an event important to the society’s religion.
Another name for the rites of making offerings to god or the gods is rites of exchange and communion. This rite is about making offerings to deity with the practical and straightforward expectation of receiving something in return. It could be a good harvest and a long life or grace and redemption, or even to praise, please or placate a divine power.
The rites of affliction and restoration are used to cancel the influence of spirits thought to be afflicting human beings with misfortunes. Rituals of healing, exorcising, protecting and purifying fall under this category.
Ceremonies that construct, display and promote the power of political institutions or the political interests of distinct constituencies and subgroups are called political rites. The rites include kingship, the opening of parliament and coronations.
These five types between them have all the known rites that included in them, whether secular, or religious. 
I began this essay thinking that ritual was going to be pretty easy to define, after all who doesn’t know what a ritual is, right? I was in for a real surprise. Trying to define ritual is like trying to define religion, everything depends on how you look at it and from what approach you try to define it. Are you looking at it from a religious point of view, or a societal one, or a psychological one? To each approach there is an answering definition for rituals. So for me to define ritual from my point of view I’m going to take it from the religious point of view and please keep in mind this is my own definition of ritual. Ritual to me is an encounter between imagination and memory translated into the physical acts of the body. It is repeated, sacred and done with awareness and precision, it can be elaborate but it can also be simple.
While studying this aspect of religion, I learned that rituals are not just about religion. They give shape and meaning to society and culture also. They can bring together a community in common and shared festivity or reason but they can also be personal and very special to the individual. Just like every aspect of religion, ritual is not simple even when it is.
 “Ritual” 2008 Access date: March 14, 2010. http://www.myetymology.com/english/ritual.html
 Segal, Robert Alan. The Blackwell Companian to the Study of Religion. (New York: Wiley-Blackwell:2008) pp.397 – 409.
 “ritual” Merriam-Webster Online Dictionary 2010 Access date: March 14, 2010 http://www.merriam-webster.com/dictionary/ritual
 Grimes, Ronald L. Beginnings in Ritual Studies (Revised Edition). (Columbia: South Carolina University Press 1995) pp. 26 – 38
 Bell, Catherine M. Ritual: Perspectives and Dimensions. (New York: Oxford University Press:1997) pp. 94 – 135